Main News of December 24



* Syrian authorities are unlikely to use chemical weapons as it would be a ‘political suicide’ for them, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said

* The deployment of NATO’s advanced surface-to-air Patriot missiles is intended to counter threats not only from Syria, but from Iran as well, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

* Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych dismissed a number of key ministers and government agency chiefs In a major cabinet reshuffle.

* Georgian Premier Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili confirmed that his country will send its athletes to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

* Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev reiterated that Manas international airport, which currently hosts a US airbase, is to be a purely civilian facility after the US base closes.

* The Russian Foreign Ministry urged Sweden to ban Kavkazcenter, the notorious Chechen separatists’ website.

* The venerable US weekly news magazine Newsweek released its final print issue, publishing a cover featuring a vintage black and white photograph of the former Newsweek Building in Midtown Manhattan contrasted with an apt hashtag phrase: #LASTPRINTISSUE.

* Two firefighters responding to a house fire in the town of Webster, New York, were shot to death when someone opened fire shortly after crews arrived on the scene.




* President Vladimir Putin trumped opposition rivals in a race for politician of the year in Russia, gaining 16 percentage points compared to 2011 in an annual poll.

* Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called on Russian lawmakers not to cancel the US-Russia adoption agreement, even if American adoptions are most likely to be banned soon.

* Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika has requested that the Investigative Committee probe the claims made in a documentary about self-exiled Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, spokesperson Marina Gridneva said.

* Russian investigators opened a criminal case against leading opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who is already facing jail time over two separate allegations of fraud.

* Russian prosecutors asked a Moscow court to drop charges against the former prison official accused of negligence leading to the 2009 death of whistle-blowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

* A jailed member of the Pussy Riot group has been reprimanded after sleeping in at the penal colony where she is serving time for a high-profile protest in Moscow’s largest cathedral, a Federal Penitentiary Service official said.

* Russia has contributed $2 million to the African Union Peace Fund, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.




* The Russian Defense Ministry denied media rumors about sending commando units, air defense systems operators and military equipment to Syria.

* Russia will decide on whether to build two Mistral class ships only after evaluating their performance, role and status as part of the Russian Navy, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said.

* Russia is to supply India with combat helicopters and warplanes worth $2.9 bln under a deal signed during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to New Delhi.

* Russian aerobatic teams the Swifts and the Russian Knights will receive new Su-30SM and Su-35C fighter jets ahead of regular Russian Air Force units, the force’s commander Viktor Bondarev said.

* NATO will continue chartering Antonov An-124 Ruslan heavy lift transport planes until at least December 31, 2014, Ukraine’s Antonov design bureau said.




* LUKoil, Russia’s largest privately owned oil company, has opted not to acquire US ExxonMobil’s 60-percent stake in the West Qurna-1 oil field in southern Iraq, the head of LUKoil Overseas said.

* Gazprom Neft, the oil arm of the Russian energy giant Gazprom, plans to spend up to 240 billion rubles for investment projects, up 25 percent year-on-year, the company said.



* WBA super champion Wladimir Klitschko should put his titles on the line against regular champion Alexander Povetkin of Russia no later than February 24, the body announced.

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