News in Brief

Tri Kita Case Goes to Court

A court in the Moscow region town of Narofominsk has sent the high-profile case against Sergei Zuyev, owner of the Tri Kita furniture store, to a court in St. Petersburg, a court official said Tuesday.

At a closed hearing Tuesday, the court ruled that the case should be heard where Zuyev's company is accused of having smuggled furniture into the country, Zuyev's lawyer, Kirill Polischuk, said.

Prosecutors have 10 days to appeal the court decision. The case is widely believed to be linked to a turf war between competing clans in the security services that has turned into a bitter public conflict. (MT)

Chechen Battle Kills One

ROSTOV-ON-DON -- A gunbattle between rebels and federal troops in Chechnya left one soldier dead and three others wounded, officials said Tuesday.

The clash occurred late Monday when a group of federal troops was conducting a sweep of the Achkhoi-Martan region in southern Chechnya's mountains for rebels. The militants fled the area after the gunbattle, which raged for about an hour, the regional branch of the Interior Ministry said. (AP)

Space Glitch Found

A glitch that subjected two Russian cosmonauts and Malaysia's first space traveler to a rough trip back to Earth was caused by a faulty cable, RIA-Novosti reported Tuesday, citing the head of a spacecraft manufacturer.

An inquiry revealed that the incident in October had been caused by a damaged control cable, Vitaly Lopota, director of the state RKK Energiya company, told RIA-Novosti.

The Soyuz landing capsule carrying Russian cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov and Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor of Malaysia went down on a steeper-than-usual descent trajectory, the so-called ballistic descent. It subjected the crew to 8.5 times the force of gravity instead of the usual four. (AP)

Kosovo Plan Irks Moscow

The Foreign Ministry bristled at EU plans to send a replacement for a UN mission in Kosovo, saying Tuesday a move would require specific approval by the UN Security Council.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin strongly warned the EU against trying to bypass the Security Council, saying unilateral action would defy international law. "We hope that the UN secretary-general and our others partners will realize the perilous consequences of unilateral steps and actions which violate the UN Charter, and refrain from steps fraught with disastrous consequences for the system of international relations," Kamynin said in a statement. (AP)

17 Demands for Saakashvili

The united opposition to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili presented a list of 17 demands to the government Tuesday and threatened to hold a protest rally in Tbilisi on Feb. 15 if they aren't met.

Former Foreign Minister Salome Zurabishvili, who heads the Georgia's Way party, said Tuesday the opposition demands the creation of an independent judiciary, greater media freedom and changes in election laws to allow for a "free and fair" parliamentary contest, scheduled for May. (Bloomberg)

Azeri Fighter Jet Crashes

BAKU, Azerbaijan -- An Azeri Air Force fighter jet crashed into the Caspian Sea during a training flight Tuesday, killing the two crewmembers on board, the Defense Ministry said.

Rescuers were looking for the flight data recorders from the MiG-29, which went down around midday about 60 kilometers off shore, the ministry said.

In Russia, meanwhile, military officials blamed flight controllers for the crash of an L-39 training jet Monday that killed a pilot-instructor and left a student pilot hospitalized in intensive care. (AP)

Tajik Power Cuts

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan -- Tajikistan's state-owned power company said Tuesday it would be forced to cut off power to much of the country after it exhausted its electricity reserves.

Efforts in recent days to limit electricity consumption have apparently failed, resulting in the cutoff of supplies to many rural areas and severe rationing in the capital, Dushanbe, and several other towns. The electricity cuts come in the midst of Central Asia's coldest winter in a quarter century. (Reuters)

Belarussian Elections in Fall

MINSK -- Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko said parliamentary elections would take place in September and promised Western observers could attend.

"The most likely date for the election is the end of September," Lukashenko said in a statement issued after meeting Belarus' top election official Monday. "The campaign will therefore officially begin at the end of June."

Opposition figures expressed caution at the announcement. (Reuters)

For the Record

Days after Moldova said it wanted to reunite with Trans-Dniester, a separatist province, the province's foreign ministry is calling on Russia to recognize its independence. (AP)

President Viktor Yushchenko has ordered the government to put more money and effort into protecting the Ukrainian language -- a divisive issue in a country where Russian remains a first language for many. (AP)

Latvia's interior minister said the Russian diplomat expelled last week, Alexander Rogozhin, had been buying state secrets from Latvian government workers. He did not say what the information was. (AP)