Main news of August 18

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RUSSIA

* The Russian frigate Ladny has freed the Arctic Sea cargo ship in the Atlantic without firing a single shot and eight suspected hijackers have been detained, Russia's defense minister, Anatoly Serdyukov, said

* The death toll in an accident at Russia's largest hydropower plant has risen to 12 people, with 64 still unaccounted for, the country's emergencies minister said

* Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told the interior minister to establish the cause of a deadly suicide bombing in southern Russia that left 20 dead and 136 injured

* Four people were injured in an explosion in Dagestan, the volatile southern Russian republic's interior ministry said

* Russia's Defense Ministry and the Sukhoi aircraft maker signed on Tuesday a 80 billion ruble ($2.5 billion) contract

WORLD

* Iran is ready to hold talks with the West on its nuclear program without any preliminary conditions, a high-ranking Iranian official said

* Israel agreed to freeze construction in the West Bank until the beginning of 2010, according to the Israeli prime minister's office

* Israel's president Shimon Peres urged Russia to help prevent a new outbreak of violence in the Middle East

 

* Georgia officially ended its membership of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)*

* Abkhazian President Sergei Bagapsh appealed to the UN Security Council and the European Union over the seizure by Georgia of a Turkish tanker carrying fuel to the former Georgian republic

* The president of Uzbekistan told a top U.S. military official that his country is ready to strengthen ties with the United States on equal partnership terms

* The Russian Embassy in Prague has received no official notification about the expulsion of two Russian diplomats from the Czech Republic, an embassy spokesman said

* Rescuers have found three other Russian tourists, who went missing while diving in Egypt's Red Sea on Monday, the Russian embassy in Egypt said

 

BUSINESS

* Sinopec Group, China's largest oil refiner, has taken over Geneva-based oil and gas producer Addax Petroleum Corp., the Xinhua news agency said

* Russia's oil exports increased slightly 0.2%, year-on-year, to 122.9 million metric tons (1.04 billion barrels) in January-June 2009, the country's statistics service said

* Russia's Novatek posted a 36% decrease in net profit calculated to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) year-on-year to 9.3 billion rubles ($291 mln) in the first half of 2009

* Russia's prime minister criticized the country's United Aircraft Building Corporation (UABC) for selling planes to domestic and foreign companies at a loss

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