EVENING NEWS ROUNDUP
From RFE/RL's News Desk:
KREMLIN MOVES TO QUASH PUTIN HEALTH RUMORS
Vladimir Putin's spokesman said on October 29 that the Russian president is in good health, seeking to quash rumors of an illness.
Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow that "everything is okay" with Putin's health, Russian news agencies Interfax and TASS reported.
"They will wait in vain. May their tongues wither," Peskov said of those who claim Putin is ill.
Peskov spoke after a spate of Russian media reports referring to an October 24 column in the tabloid "New York Post" whose author, Richard Johnson, cited unidentified sources as saying Putin had pancreatic cancer.
Putin and the Kremlin have strongly discouraged reporting about the 62-year-old president's private life.
(Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax)
ROSNEFT THREATENS TO SUE NEWSPAPER OVER SANCTIONS REPORT
Russia's largest oil company, Rosneft, is threatening to sue the Russian daily "Kommersant" for a report alleging Rosneft sent President Vladimir Putin proposals for countersanctions against Western companies and individuals.
"Kommersant" reported on October 29 that state-run Rosneft's proposals include limiting cooperation aboard the International Space Station, prohibiting burial of U.S. and EU nuclear waste in Russia, and possible confiscation of property in Russia owned by Western countries or their citizens.
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, denied there were any Rosneft proposals for sanctions, but presidential aide Andrei Belousov and Economy Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev seemed to contradict this.
State-run TASS reported Peskov said reports Rosneft had sent such proposals were untrue.
Peskov said decisions on imposing sanctions were made "in line with the relevant departments, and taken on the level of the government and president."
A different TASS report quoted Belousov as saying, "We are closely studying Rosneft's proposals."
Belousov went on to say, "I would say the radicalism of the proposals for now exceeds the current level of tensions."
The Interfax news agency quoted Ulyukayev as saying the proposals were a "very complex document" and adding, "I don’t think it is grounds for making any decisions."
The "Kommersant" report said "Russian government officials" had provided information about the alleged proposals.
A statement from Rosneft said the company was "deeply shocked" by the "Kommersant" article and might sue the newspaper.
Western governments have imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The sanctions target key Russian industries and individuals close to Putin, including Rosneft and its head, Igor Sechin, who is a former Kremlin deputy chief of staff.
The sanctions have hurt Rosneft, which has already requested additional funding from the Russian government to make up for losses incurred due to sanctions.
British oil company BP reported on October 28 that its income from its operations with Rosneft dropped from $808 million in the third quarter of 2013 to $110 million in the same period this year.
(Based on reporting by TASS, Interfax, Reuters, and Kommersant)
WHITE HOUSE DETECTS SUSPICIOUS CYBER ACTIVITY, REPORT BLAMES RUSSIA
The White House says it has taken measures to counter suspicious activity detected on its unclassified computer network.
A White House official would not say who might have been responsible for the activity on what was described as an unclassified computer network used by employees of the Executive Office of the President.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the authorities had taken "immediate measures to evaluate and mitigate the activity."
In a report on October 28, the "Washington Post" cited sources as saying hackers believed to be working for the Russian government breached the unclassified computer network in recent weeks.
The White House has declined to comment on the "Washington Post" report.
A U.S. administration official said there were no indications that classified networks had been affected.
(Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and dpa)
VICTIMS OF STALIN TERROR REMEMBERED IN MOSCOW CEREMONY
Activists are gathering near the former KGB headquarters to honor the memory of thousands of men and women executed by Soviet authorities during Josef Stalin's "Great Terror."
Speakers at the daylong ceremony at the Solovetsky Stone memorial on Moscow's Lubyanka Square read out aloud the names, ages, occupations, and dates of executions of some 30,000 people killed by Soviet authorities in 1937-1938.
Muscovites and others brought flowers, pictures of victims and candles to the site of the "Returning the Names" commemoration, which began at 1000 (local time; 0800 Prague time) and was to end at 1000 (local time; 0800 Prague time).
The annual ceremony is organized by Memorial, Russia's oldest and best-known human rights organization, which is under pressure from the government.
On October 10, Russia's Justice Ministry appealed to the Supreme Court to close Memorial.
Memorial has held the ceremony every year since 2006 at the site near the headquarters of the Federal Security Service, the KGB's main successor.
Ceremonies were also being held in other Russian cities.
(Based on live broadcast by october29.ru)
SEPARATISTS SHELL UKRAINIAN TROOPS
Pro-Russian separatists reportedly shelled the position of Ukrainian government troops in southeastern Ukraine on October 29, despite an almost two-month-old cease-fire agreement.
Authorities in the port city of Mariupol say military positions located near the village of Talakovka were targeted on October 29 by conventional artillery and Grad rockets that were fired from from the separatist-controlled region of Donetsk.
Casualties were reported among troops.
The cease-fire agreement signed in early September ended most fighting between the two sides -- although battles at the Donetsk airport, in Mariupol, and in villages near the city of Luhansk continue on an almost daily basis.
The UN says more than 3,700 people have been killed in six months of fighting between government forces and separatists in eastern Ukraine, with hundreds of thousands fleeing their homes.
(Based on reporting by Interfax and UNIAN)
RUSSIAN AIRLINE PLANS YEREVAN-CRIMEA FLIGHTS OVER kYIV'S OBJECTIONS
By RFE/RL's Armenian Service
The Grozny Air civil aviation company, based in the Russia's Chechnya region, is pressing ahead with plans to launch regular flights from Yerevan to Crimea, despite protests from Kyiv.
Timur Shimayev, an executive officer for Grozny Air, told RFE/RL on October 29 that the firm's inaugural flight to Crimea is scheduled for November 17.
But Ukraine's Ambassador to Armenia, Ivan Kukhta, told reporters in Yerevan on October 29 that any commercial flights between Yerevan and Crimea must first be approved by Kyiv.
Kukhta's statement came five days after a spokesman for the Armenian government’s Civil Aviation Department, Ruben Grdzelian, said that a Russian regional airline had not been allowed to launch flights between Armenia and Crimea since the Ukrainian penninsula was annexed by Russia in March.
Moscow's annexation of Crimea has been condemned as illegal by the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations General Assembly.