News in Brief

New Duma to Meet Dec. 24



The new State Duma will hold its first session Dec. 24, according to a presidential decree published Thursday in Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

President Vladimir Putin headed United Russia's ticket in the Dec. 2 elections in which the party won 315 seats in the 450-member chamber. But Putin will not take a seat, the Central Elections Commission said. In fact, nearly one-third of the United Russia candidates will not be joining the Duma, with 101 candidates declining to serve, it said. (MT)




Metro Tickets at 19 Rubles



The cost of public transportation in Moscow is set to increase as of Jan. 1, Itar-Tass reported.

The cost of a single metro ticket will increase from 17 rubles to 19 rubles, while the cost of a bus, trolleybus or tram ticket purchased at ticket stands will increase from 15 rubles to 17 rubles, Itar-Tass said Wednesday.

A ticket purchased from the driver will remain 25 rubles.

The cost of a monthly pass for all four types of public transportation will increase from 1,080 rubles to 1,300 rubles. (MT)




U.S. Criticized Treaty Freeze



WASHINGTON -- The United States has strongly objected to Russia's suspension of its participation in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Wednesday that the Russian move to halt compliance with the treaty came despite serious negotiations to address Russian concerns.

Speaking during a visit to Tokyo on Thursday, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop called the suspension "regrettable." (AP)




Kyrgyz Will Vote Sunday



BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- Opponents of Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev accused authorities Thursday of orchestrating an intimidation campaign against them in the run-up to Sunday's snap parliamentary elections.

The opposition said some of its regional activists had been beaten by unknown assailants or arrested by the police.

Analysts predict Bakiyev's Ak Zhol party will register a landslide win. (Reuters)




Tajikistan Targets Witches



DUSHANBE, Tajikistan -- Tajikistan is launching a crackdown on witchcraft and fortunetelling as part of an anti-poverty drive after earlier banning lavish weddings and expensive funerals.

"Those indulging in sorcery and fortunetelling will be fined" $173 to $231, according to the text of a bill backed by the Tajik parliament Wednesday.

Occultism is on the rise in Tajikistan, where lines to see sorcerers are often longer than those for doctors. (Reuters)