News in Brief

Mayor Under Investigation



Authorities have opened a criminal investigation into the activities of Stavropol Mayor Dmitry Kuzmin, a regional leader of pro-Kremlin party A Just Russia.

Kuzmin is suspected of abuse of office, an Interior Ministry official in the Southern Federal District said, Interfax reported Tuesday.

Kuzmin had been a candidate on A Just Russia's ticket in Sunday's State Duma elections, but the Supreme Court on Monday ruled to remove him from the ballot for campaign violations, Interfax reported.

The party said Kuzmin would appeal the ruling, Interfax said. Kuzmin has not been taken into custody.

Kuzmin led the party to victory in March regional parliamentary elections over the political machine of Governor Alexander Chernogorov and United Russia, whose federal ticket is headed up by President Vladimir Putin. (MT)




Reshetin Facing Jail Term



Prosecutors have asked that Igor Reshetin, head of TsNIIMash-Export of the Central Research Institute for Machine Building, be sentenced to 12 years in prison for purportedly selling weapons technology illegally to China and misappropriating funds.

Prosecutors demanded in Moscow's Lefortovsky District Court on Monday that Reshetin be convicted and serve out the prison sentence in a maximum security prison, Interfax reported Monday.

Reshetin, who was arrested in October 2005, has consistently denied any wrongdoing, and his lawyer asked the court to acquit him due to lack of evidence, Interfax reported.

The court is expected to issue a verdict Dec. 3, Interfax said. (MT)




Azeri Minister Warns of War



ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- Azerbaijan's defense minister said Tuesday that the long-standing dispute over the Armenian-controlled territory of Nagorno-Karabakh is almost certain to eventually spark a new war if it remains unresolved.

Safar Abiyev's remark was a strongly worded repetition of warnings from Azeri officials that they have not ruled out the use of force to recapture Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas if internationally mediated settlement efforts fail.

"As long as Azeri territory is occupied by Armenia, the chance of war is close to 100 percent," Abiyev said during a meeting in Kazakhstan of defense chiefs from former Soviet republics.

Armenian Defense Minister Mikhail Arutyunyan said he saw no alternative to a peaceful settlement, RIA-Novosti reported. (AP)




Georgians to Vote on NATO



TBILISI, Georgia -- Georgians will vote on Jan. 5 in a plebiscite to decide whether the country should push ahead with its drive to join NATO, a Georgian presidential spokesman said Monday.

They will also decide, while voting in the presidential election, whether parliamentary polls should be brought forward from next fall to spring.

Presidential spokesman Vano Noniashvili said the order to include the two questions came from President Mikheil Saakashvili before he stepped down Sunday to comply with re-election provisions in Georgia's constitution.

Saakashvili called the early presidential election for January following opposition protests, which prompted him to close the biggest opposition television station. (Reuters)




Kyrgyz Headed to the Polls



BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- Twelve parties have registered in Kyrgyzstan to compete in Dec. 16 parliamentary elections designed to ease tensions in the Central Asian state after two years of political instability.

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev came to power in 2005 after a wave of protests toppled his long-serving predecessor, Askar Akayev. Ever since, the parliament elected under Akayev in a disputed vote has been at the center of political volatility.

The Kyrgyz Central Election Commission said Monday that it had registered a dozen parties ahead of the snap parliamentary poll.

Bakiyev, criticized by the opposition for not being decisive enough in tackling crime and corruption, heeded calls for a snap parliamentary vote and dissolved the chamber last month. (Reuters)




Path to Prison a Cakewalk



A mugger in Krasnoyarsk stole a woman's cake as she walked by, then asked the victim to call police so he could go back to prison, RIA-Novosti reported Tuesday.

The motive for the crime was unclear, but when police arrived on the scene, the attacker told them that he just wanted to return to jail, a local police spokeswoman told RIA-Novosti.

After checking the arrested man's documents, police learned that the mugger had recently served out a 12-year sentence, the spokeswoman said. If convicted of theft, the suspect could face up to three years in prison. (Reuters)