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Hamilton fastest in Russia, Vettel stops

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SOCHI, Russia Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton was top of the timesheets in Russian Grand Prix practice on Friday after Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg set the early pace and Ferrari suffered reliability problems.

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Finnish NATO membership would lead to crisis with Russia - government report

HELSINKI If Finland joined NATO it would lead to a serious crisis with neighbouring Russia, a report commissioned by the Finnish government said on Friday.

REFILE-UPDATE 1-Rusal's aluminium output rises with new smelter's trial run

* Rusal's Q1 output includes 39,000 T from Boguchansk smelter

UPDATE 2-Russian central bank holds rates but says it may cut soon

* Inflation risks still "elevated", wage data mixed (Adds details and comment)

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Sirotkin looking more like the real deal

SOCHI, Russia Sergey Sirotkin raised eyebrows when he first appeared on the Formula One radar in 2013 as a little-known teen with seemingly wealthy backers but the Russian racer looks more like the real deal now.

UPDATE 2-Russia's Yamal LNG gets round sanctions with $12 bln Chinese loan deal

* Loan agreement likely be lauded as Putin win over West (Adds details, quote from Yamal director general)

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Ricciardo tests head protection device

SOCHI, Russia Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo tested a new Formula One head protection device on his car at the Russian Grand Prix on Friday with opinions divided on the aesthetics if not the effectiveness.

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Russian rouble firms as oil hits new 2016 high, central bank awaited

MOSCOW The Russian rouble opened stronger on Friday, boosted by the rising price of oil which ticked above $48 per barrel ahead of a Russian central bank meeting which is expected to leave rates on hold.

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U.S. says Syrian government solely behind Aleppo hospital strike

WASHINGTON Indications are that Syria's government was solely responsible for an air strike on a hospital in Aleppo, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday, urging Russia to use its influence to pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stop the attacks.

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China, Russia urge U.S. to drop Korea missile defence proposal

BEIJING China and Russia urged the United States on Friday not to install a new anti-missile system in South Korea, after Washington said it was in talks with Seoul in the wake of nuclear arms and missile tests by North Korea.

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'Monstrous' violence in Syria as government excludes Aleppo from truce

BEIRUT Syria called local truces near Damascus and in a northern province on Friday but no halt to combat on the main battlefield in Aleppo, after a surge in fighting the United Nations said showed "monstrous disregard" for civilian lives.