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Main News of April 23

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A roundup of what has happened in the past 24 hours

WORLD

* France’s lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, adopted in its second and final reading a controversial new law that allows same-sex marriages and legalizes children adoption by gay couples.

* US Secretary of State John Kerry called on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to prepare for the possible use of chemical weapons by Syria in the ongoing civil war there.

* The Syrian authorities called the EU decision to allow the import of Syrian oil and its derivatives through exclusive transactions with the rebels an "illegal" move and "an act of aggression."

* NATO and Russia have yet to make their partnership truly strategic but they have made real progress in many areas, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) in Brussels.

* The death toll from a massive earthquake that hit southwest China’s Sichuan province has risen to 193 people, Chinese media reported

RUSSIA

* President Vladimir Putin has instructed the government to prepare proposals by July for curbing generous pay-offs to departing executives, including top managers of state corporations, the Kremlin website said.

* Any reports of the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict must be carefully investigated to avoid the repetition of the “Iraqi scenario,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

* Police in southwest Russia detained the man suspected of shooting six people dead in the city of Belgorod, the Interior Ministry said.

* Russian billionaire and Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich is Russia’s most generous philanthropist, having spent $310 million on charity out of his fortune of $12.8 billion in the past three years, Bloomberg reported.

DEFENSE

* Russia will start state flight tests of its fifth-generation T-50 fighter jet in 2014, United Aircraft Corporation's President Mikhail Pogosyan said.

* The Russian Navy will take delivery of two Project 955 Borey-class ballistic-missile submarines, the Alexander Nevsky and the Vladimir Monomakh, and one Yasen-class attack submarine, the Severodvinsk, by the end of the year, a Defense Ministry official said.

* Russia plans to base fighter jets at a military airbase in Belarus, with a first wing due to arrive there later this year, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.

* Russia and Belarus agreed a draft treaty on the exchange of geostrategic information between their military, Belarusian Defense Minister Yuri Zhadobin said.

* Russia's Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology has started an R&D program to develop new rail-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) systems, Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov said.

* A former Russian Air Force general has pleaded guilty in court to causing the crash of a Sukhoi Su-27UB fighter jet last year in Russia’s Karelia region.

BUSINESS

* Russia’s largest privately held oil firm LUKoil plans to produce 150,000 barrels of oil per day from the Iraqi West Qurna-2 oilfield from 2014, LUKoil CEO Vagit Alekperov said.

* Russian grocery store chain Magnit posted an IFRS net profit of 6.2 billion rubles ($202 million) in January-March 2013, up 29 percent on the same period last year, the retailer said, citing strong sales.

* China has proposed that Russia join forces with it to build and operate floating nuclear power plants, the head of Rusatom Overseas, part of Russia’s civilian nuclear power corporation Rosatom, said.

* Russia’s State Precious Metals and Gems Repository auctioned 572 large-size raw diamonds for $17.87 million on Tuesday, a Finance Ministry source said.

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