News in Brief

Media Rebuttal Bill

The Prosecutor General's Office has sent a draft bill to the State Duma that would oblige media to publish all official rebuttals to news coverage and would also allow prosecutors and courts easily to block access to internet sites judged to be posting extremist content.

Prosecutors argued in an accompanying letter that the bill would help curb growing extremist crime, RIA-Novosti reported Friday.

The State Duma Security Committee that reviewed the bill Friday decided to conduct a parliament hearing into the legislative initiatives aimed at fight extremism.

Secretary General of the Union of Journalists, Igor Yakovenko, strongly opposed the bill, telling Interfax that it would trample media freedoms. (MT)

Bookkeeper Detained, Freed

Investigators briefly detained the accountant at a private security company owned by the wife of Alexander Bulbov, a top drug police official who is in custody on charges of abuse of office.

Yelena Mordashova, bookkeeper for the Nemizida company, was summoned to the Prosecutor General's Office for questioning on Friday, RIA-Novosti reported.

Investigators questioned her on whether she had passed "protection" money from businessmen to Alexander, Bulbov, deputy head of the Federal Drug Police Service, Nikolai Orlov, deputy head of the Moscow police criminal investigations directorate, and several other law enforcement agents, RIA-Novosti reported.

Mordasheva denied passing on any protection money during the Friday interrogation only to be placed in custody, her lawyer Olga Semenyuk told RIA-Novosti. Mordasheva was not charged and was released from detention 48 hours later, as required by law, Semenyuk said. (MT)

Exhibition Closed

The opening of an art exhibition in the Pskov was canceled Sunday by local authorities over alleged safety concerns, the show's organizers said.

The art exhibition, entitled "Prison, Madness, Equality, Justice," was due to display works painted by Natalia Chernova while she awaited trial for taking part in a protest at a Kremlin-controlled building in late 2004.

"Fifteen minutes before the start of the opening of the exhibition, the building's administrators announced the site was in an unsafe condition," Chernova told Ekho Moskvy radio.

Interior Ministry officials arrived shortly afterward and demanded the paintings be taken down, Chernova said.

In December 2004, Chernova was one of about 40 members of the now-banned National Bolshevik Party that occupied the presidential information administration building. Chernova was later sentenced to three years in jail. (AP)

Detainee Denied Medicine

MINSK -- The brother of a U.S. lawyer being held in Belarus on suspicion of using false documents says authorities are denying the detainee medication for his diabetes.

New York-based Mark Zeltser said Friday that the Belarussian KGB is allowing 54-year-old lawyer Emanuel Zeltser only one of the four sets of tablets he has been taking for the last 15 years to treat the disease.

Mark Zeltser says he has written a letter to prosecutors in Belarus saying that "Emanuel is dying in prison." The KGB has refused to comment.

Its officers detained Zeltser at Minsk airport March 12. Zelster faces three years in prison if convicted. (AP)

Death Toll Hits 9

YEREVAN, Armenia -- A policeman has died of wounds sustained last month during clashes with opposition protesters in the Armenian capital, a police spokesman said on Saturday.

His death on Friday brings to nine the number of dead in the fighting on March 1 between protesters armed with iron railings and stones and police and soldiers wielding batons and firing rubber bullets.

Seven protesters died and two members of the security forces. Security forces accused demonstrators of carrying and using firearms. The demonstrators, who accuse President Serzh Sargsyan of fixing a Feb. 19 election, have denied this. (AP)