News in Brief

British Offer in Art Flap



LONDON -- Britain's culture minister, hoping to persuade Russia to send its paintings to London for a major exhibition, said Thursday that he was moving up the effective date of legislation to protect art from seizure.

The exhibition, called "From Russia: French and Russian Master Paintings 1870-1925," was scheduled to open at The Royal Academy on Jan. 26.

On Thursday, despite British assurances, the Federal Culture and Cinematography Agency said the paintings would only be sent if the British Cabinet issued a waiver saying that any British court decision to settle private legal claims would not be implemented while they were in the country. (AP)




Bush Cautious on Putin



WASHINGTON -- U.S. President George W. Bush spoke cautiously about the state of democracy in Russia under President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.

Asked about Time magazine's decision to name Putin as its person of the year for imposing stability that restored Russia as a world power, Bush told reporters: "I presume they put him on there because he was a consequential leader. And the fundamental question is, consequential to what end? What will the country look like 10 years from now? My hope, of course, is that Russia is a country that understands there needs to be checks and balances, free and fair elections and a vibrant press."

Bush said he had not talked to Putin about his serving as prime minister. "I think we better just watch and see," Bush said. "What will be interesting next year is how the Russian president carries on his business -- the new Russian president." (AP)




Warrant Out for NGO Chief



Manana Aslamazian, head of the Educated Media Foundation, formerly Internews Russia, has been placed on an international wanted list, an Interior Ministry source told Interfax on Wednesday.

Aslamazian was charged with smuggling after she failed to declare 9,550 euros ($12,400) at Sheremetyevo Airport in January. She has left the country and vowed not to return until her name is cleared.

Investigators raided her organization's offices in April and seized papers and equipment, forcing the NGO, which trains journalists, to close. (MT)




For the Record



President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's party has won a crushing majority in the parliament while his foes have failed to win a single seat, according to official returns released Thursday. Ak Zhol won 71 out of 90 parliament seats in Sunday's election, while two pro-Bakiyev parties got the remaining seats. (AP)

The Federal Security Service has thwarted the work of 93 foreign agents in the past year, and former Soviet Baltic nations have increased their espionage activity, FSB head Nikolai Patrushev said Wednesday. (AP)