News in Brief

Russia-EU Deal Hoped for



The European Union's presidency aims to reach agreement next month on a long-stalled mandate to negotiate a new partnership accord with Russia, a Slovenian presidency spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The spokeswoman said Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel wanted EU foreign ministers to hold a strategic debate on ties with Moscow at informal talks in Slovenia next week, clearing the way for a decision at a formal meeting on April 28. (Reuters)




Mogilevich Staying in Jail



The Ostankinsky District Court on Wednesday ordered a reputed international crime boss wanted in the United States to remain behind bars through late June as authorities continue to investigate his case.

The court extended the detention of Semyon Mogilevich, who has been jailed since his January arrest on tax-evasion charges linked to a Russian cosmetics store chain, court spokeswoman Anna Usachyova said. (AP)




U.S. Halts Visas for Belarus



MINSK -- The United States has stopped reviewing Belarussian visa applications in a diplomatic spat after Washington's envoy left Minsk.

"The U.S. government is at the moment looking at the recommendation of Belarus' Foreign Ministry for a reduction of staff at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk," the embassy said in a statement.

"In connection with that review, visa reviews are temporarily suspended because our resources are directed to other priorities at the moment." (Reuters)




Tula Teen Gets 10 Years



A Tula court sentenced a teenager on Wednesday to 10 years in prison for stabbing another youth to death for refusing to lend him his cell phone, Interfax reported.

Yevgeny Yakovlev, 19, told Tula's Zarechensky District Court that he took offense after the 17-year-old victim refused to let him make a call on his cell phone on May 6, 2007, Interfax reported.

"Yakovlev stabbed the teenager in the stomach with a knife, and the youth died from his injuries at the scene," Interfax quoted an unidentified prosecutor as saying.

The court awarded the victim's mother 200,000 rubles ($8,500) in compensation. (MT)




Publisher Goes Missing



Mikhail Sokolov, founder and publisher of the regional edition of Moskovsky Komsomolets in Tolyatti, a city in the Samara region, has gone missing.

Colleagues said Wednesday that they suspected foul play.

Sokolov was last seen March 12, said Tatyana Guzayeva, editor of the regional edition.

"This is an abduction," she said by telephone. Guzayeva said she believed that Sokolov was abducted in retaliation for recent publications examining corruption allegations in a powerful local businessman's dealings. Local police declined to comment. (AP)




Bout's Detention Extended



BANGKOK, Thailand -- A Thai court extended the detention Wednesday of Russian businessman Viktor Bout, 41, for his purported activities as one of the world's biggest black-market arms dealers.

Bangkok Criminal Court approved a police request to extend his detention by 12 days," police Colonel Petcharat Sengchai said. Bout was arrested March 6 at the U.S. authorities' request.

Bout faces U.S. charges of "conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization" for allegedly arranging to sell and transport weapons, including portable surface-to-air missiles, to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

The multimillion-dollar deal was part of an undercover operation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. officials said. (AP)




Moldova Premier Resigns



CHISINAU, Moldova -- Moldovan Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev unexpectedly resigned Wednesday in a leadership shake-up he said was for the country's "well-being."

His departure triggers the resignation of his government. Tarlev said in a statement that he was stepping down to allow a new team to take over but did not elaborate. Tarlev, 44, a Communist, has been prime minister since 2001 and the longest-serving prime minister since independence in 1991. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2009.

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin will nominate a new prime minister. He has said the new government must push for European integration and resolve a crisis with separatists in Transdnestr, which broke away from Moldova in 1991. (AP)