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Russia swaps radio reporter for POWs held by Chechens

Russian authorities on Thursday exchanged a Radio Liberty reporter for Russian prisoners of war being held by Chechen militants, a presidential aide said.

The U.S.-financed radio station called the swap a Russian ploy to get rid of a reporter whose critical coverage of the Chechnya war has angered authorities. "Later, (Russians) will say that the Chechens have killed him or something else," said Radio Liberty lawyer Genri Reznik.

The reporter, Andrei Babitsky, was detained in Chechnya in mid-January. The formal grounds for his detention was a lack of government permission to work in the war zone. But some Russian officials accused him of involvement in Chechen rebel gangs.

Sergei Yastrzhembsky, the presidential aide in charge of information on the Chechnya war, said Thursday that a rebel field commander had offered to trade Babitsky for POWs and that the reporter agreed to the deal.

He said the exchange was made for two or three Russian soldiers and that precise details would be known today.

Chernobyl reactor back

in business after repairs

KIEV, Ukraine _ The only functioning reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant returned to full capacity early Thursday after repairs on a safety valve, the plant announced.

The reactor had been shut down Jan. 30.

A 1986 explosion at Chernobyl's No. 4 reactor was the world's worst nuclear accident, sending a radioactive cloud over much of Europe. Ukraine had pledged to shut the plant down this year, but the government says it first needs money to complete two reactors that would make up for the power lost by the shutdown.

Ukraine's nuclear reactors produce more than 40 percent of the country's electricity.

Norwegian man rescued after avalanche hits home

OSLO, Norway _ A 90-year-old man was rescued Thursday after a mile-wide avalanche slammed into his home 800 miles north of Oslo.

The snow severely damaged the house in the remote Tamokdalen valley and trapped the man inside. He was rescued shortly afterward and hospitalized.

"He was conscious and knew what was going on when he was found," Kurt Pettersen of the Troms district police said.

Bombed U.S. Embassy property will become park

NAIROBI, Kenya _ The site of the U.S. Embassy destroyed by a terrorist bomb will be turned into a memorial park dedicated to the 213 people killed in the blast, the embassy said Thursday.

The embassy building was demolished last year after the Aug. 7, 1998, bombing that killed 201 Kenyans and 12 Americans and wounded more than 5,400 people.

The embassy, which signed a 99-year lease in 1980 on the property in downtown Nairobi, has effectively ceded ownership to the August 7th Memorial Trust.

Trustees include government and business leaders from Kenya and the United States. They will seek donations to raise the estimated $3.5-million needed to build and maintain the gardens.

Embassy personnel are working out of temporary quarters until a new embassy is built on the northern edge of Nairobi.

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