News in Brief

5 Homeless Men Dead

Five homeless men have been killed in Novosibirsk in what police believe was a drunken brawl.

The bodies of the five were found Thursday in the cellar of a house, and a suspect was detained Friday, police said.

"The murders were committed using a kitchen knife and an iron object," said Viktor Koshelev, deputy head of the Novosibirsk region's police department, Interfax reported.

Police believe that the five were killed after an argument broke out during a drinking session.

Police did not name the suspect, saying that he was born in 1981 and had previous convictions for theft and extortion.

All the victims were residents of Novosibirsk and the Novosibirsk region and aged 28 to 47. (MT)

2 Detained in Ingushetia

Police have detained two organizers of an anti-government protest in Ingushetia, Interior Ministry sources said Friday.

Police detained Maksharip Aushev and Magomed Evloyev on Thursday and drove them to a detention center in Nalchik in the neighboring republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, a ministry source said.

The two organized a Jan. 26 protest of around 30 people in Ingushetia's main town, Nazran, defying a ban.

Evloyev founded the web site, the main source of opposition news from the republic. He said in January that the authorities had tried to hack into and close the site. (Reuters)

17 Convicted in Tatarstan

A court in Tatarstan has convicted 17 people on charges of planning a series of terrorist attacks, Interfax reported Friday.

The republic's Supreme Court on Thursday sentenced group leader Khafiz Rezakov to life in prison. Other defendants received prison terms ranging from three to 12 years.

The 17 defendants were accused of planning a series of attacks during Kazan's millennial celebration in 2006. No attacks took place.

Rights activists have said the trial was part of a pattern of harassment of pious Muslims in an atmosphere of repression fed by wars in Chechnya against Islamic militants and separatists. (AP)

4 Chechen Rebels Killed

ROSTOV-ON-DON -- A wanted rebel leader and three members of his group have been killed in a clash with army and interior troops in Chechnya, the regional Interior Ministry said Saturday.

The clash in the Shatoi region, in the rugged mountains of Chechnya's south, broke out Friday night after a group of four rebels fired at a military motorcade, the ministry said.

The troops chased the fleeing rebels and killed them in a brief skirmish, it said. The group was led by Ruslan Seriyev who commanded rebels in the Shatoi and Sharoi regions of Chechnya, the ministry said. (AP)

Mayor Halts Hunger Strike

Jailed Arkhangelsk Mayor Alexander Donskoi said Friday that he was temporarily halting a hunger strike begun earlier in the week to protest a criminal investigation that he calls punishment for his presidential ambitions, Interfax reported.

Donskoi was arrested in July on charges of abuse of office, punishable by up to seven years in prison. He claimed that hearings on the case have been deliberately delayed for political purposes.

"I am ready to stop the hunger strike, but if the case is delayed in the future I will be forced to extreme measures," he said in court. (MT)

Belarus Frees Klimov

MINSK -- Belarus released an opposition leader Friday in what President Alexander Lukashenko described as a gesture meant to help improve his government's ties with the West.

Andrei Klimov, a former lawmaker who was sentenced to two years in prison in September on charges of insulting Lukashenko, was the latest of several opposition figures to be freed from custody in Belarus.

"We have taken an unprecedented step of goodwill, now let's see how the European Union and the United States will respond to that," Lukashenko said. (AP)