News in Brief

New Ryazan Governor



Ryazan's legislature on Friday unanimously confirmed Oleg Kovalyov as the region's new governor, Interfax reported.

President Vladimir Putin nominated Kovalyov for the post earlier in the week. Kovalyov is currently chairman of the State Duma's Rules Committee and a senior official in United Russia.

He replaces retired Colonel General Georgy Shpak, who won a general election in the region in 2004, running as a candidate from the nationalist-populist Rodina party.

Kovalyov will be sworn in as governor in mid-April after Shpak's term officially ends. (MT)




10 Killed in Caucasus



MAKHACHKALA, Dagestan -- Four police and government servicemen and six suspected militants were killed Friday in the latest violence in the North Caucasus, authorities said.

In the deadliest fighting, an Interior Ministry serviceman and a riot police officer were killed during a security sweep in Dagestan, an Interior Ministry spokesman said. Government forces killed six suspected militants in the raid on a camp in Dagestan's Buinaksk district.

In two separate incidents in Ingushetia, unidentified assailants shot and killed a Federal Security Service officer and a gunman fatally shot a police lieutenant in his car at point-blank range, law enforcement officials said. Two other FSB officers were seriously wounded in the first attack. (AP)




Azeri Reporter Stabbed



BAKU, Azerbaijan -- A journalist with an Azeri anti-government newspaper has been wounded by unidentified assailants in what colleagues said Friday was authorities' efforts to silence the opposition.

Several unknown men attacked Aqil Halil in the capital, Baku, as he was heading home after work Thursday and stabbed him in the chest, said Azer Ahmadov, commercial director of Azadliq newspaper.

Ali Hasanov, the head of the presidential office's political department, denounced the attack as an attempt to incite discontent against the authorities, and vowed that the culprits would be punished.

Azadliq's editor, Ganimat Zahidov, was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison earlier this month for assault in connection with a street fight. (AP)




Tusk's Ukraine Plan



BRUSSELS -- Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Friday that he would unveil proposals in June drawing Ukraine closer to the EU, putting the process on a par with forging closer ties with Mediterranean countries as demanded by France.

Tusk said he got support from German Chancellor Angela Merkel for his efforts to engage Ukraine.

"If Europe indeed wants a more intense cooperation with its neighbors, we understand it should also include our eastern border and eastern neighbors," Tusk told journalists at a summit of EU leaders.

He said he would unveil his plan at the EU's summit in June. The specific details of the plan will still have to be worked out by June, other leaders said. (AP)




5 Held in Smuggling Plot



VILNIUS, Lithuania -- Police in Lithuania have detained five people suspected of planning to smuggle submachine guns to Britain, a prosecutor said Friday.

The people were detained a week earlier in an operation carried out in cooperation with the British police.

"The police have detained five people, all Lithuanian nationals, who are suspected of possessing arms and planning to smuggle them to Britain," prosecutor Algimantas Klunka said.

Police had found six submachine guns, similar to Croatian-made Agram weapons, during the operation. Police said in a statement that the suspects had been involved in smuggling submachine guns and converted Russian-made gas pistols to Britain for a long time. (Reuters)