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Main News of December 24

© RIA NovostiMain news of December 24
Main news of December 24 - Sputnik International
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A roundup of what has happened in the past 24 hours

WORLD

* Space station astronauts repaired a crippled cooling system during a rare Christmas Eve spacewalk Tuesday, braving a "mini blizzard" of noxious ammonia as they popped in a new pump

* Former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has applied for a visa to Switzerland less than a week after being released from decade-long imprisonment in Russia

* Georgia’s former president Mikheil Saakashvili has been declared persona non grata in Ukraine, a member of the Ukrainian parliament told Kommersant Ukraine newspaper

* Former US security contractor Edward Snowden has accomplished his mission of sparking debate by revealing classified United States government documents about the programs he worked on, he said in his first sit-down interview with journalists since arriving in Russia

* Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has signed into law a bill to free all protesters detained while attending demonstrations in favor of integration with the European Union, the head of the presidential administration said

RUSSIA

* Russia has contributed more than $120 million to a G8-funded initiative to fight infant mortality in developing countries, a senior Russian diplomat said

* The proportion of Russians who consider themselves Orthodox Christians has risen four-fold in the past 24 years, according to a new survey

* Russia will donate up to $2 million to the international effort to dismantle the Syrian government’s chemical weapons, a Russian deputy foreign minister said

* Russia and Kazakhstan signed an intergovernmental agreement on Tuesday to guaranteeing transit of Russian oil to China

* The Russian authorities dropped charges for the first time against Greenpeace activists detained over a protest at a Russian Arctic oil rig in September, following an amnesty adopted last week, the environmental group said

SCIENCE

* Russia and Kazakhstan have agreed a three-year roadmap for the joint use of the Baikonur space center, the Russian presidential administration said on its website

BUSINESS

* Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says Russia has bought $3 billion worth of Ukrainian bonds in a bid to support its neighbor's economy

* Uralkali has replaced its chief executive days after funds linked to two Russian billionaires completed the purchase of almost half the shares of the potash giant

* Russia's central bank said Tuesday it had revoked the operating licenses of two small commercial banks, the latest in a string of enforced closures by the regulator

DEFENSE

* Russia carried out a successful test-firing of an RS-24 Yars ballistic missile from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northwest Russia on Tuesday, a military representative said

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