News in Brief

8 Convicted of 14 Murders



A Sverdlovsk region court on Thursday convicted eight members of a criminal gang of killing 14 women and burying them in a mass grave after forcing them to work as prostitutes, a prosecutor's official said.

The court in the grim industrial city of Nizhny Tagil sentenced Eduard Chudinov, the purported ringleader, to life in prison and his brother, Dmitry Chudinov, to 21 years in prison, said Rimma Bobina, spokeswoman for the regional prosecutors office.

Five other people were given between 10 and 24 years, Bobina said.

As many as 30 women had been abducted between 2002 and 2005, but forensics experts were only been able to identify 14. (AP)




Valuable Vacuum Find



ST. PETERSBURG -- Car cleaners at a St. Petersburg company got a surprise when they emptied a vacuum cleaner this week: a diamond pendant worth up to 300,000 euros ($475,400).

"I didn't know how much it was worth at first, so I got a jeweler to come around, and he said it was worth as much as 300,000 euros," said Vladimir Shapiro, owner of the car cleaning firm. "When I heard the value my jaw dropped to the floor. You would have to notice losing something like this."

He said he was not going to disclose much about the pendant so that he could return the jewel to its true owner. (Reuters)




Police Brutality Convictions



A Siberian court has upheld the conviction of three policemen for abusing two women suspected of stealing a baby carriage, prosecutors said.

The policemen dragged the women by the hair, tied them to chairs with adhesive tape and hit them with their fists and rubber batons, Maria Galkina, spokeswoman for the Khanty-Mansiisk Prosecutor's Office, said Wednesday.

A court in the oil-rich region upheld the policemen's conviction Tuesday and sentenced two of them to five years in prison. The third received a four-year suspended sentence.

The officers unlawfully detained the women in May 2006 in the town of Raduzhnoye, Galkina said. (AP)




Russia Eyes Cyprus Role



ATHENS -- Moscow is looking into whether it could help resolve the decades-old division of Cyprus, Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov said Thursday.

Titov said he would visit Cyprus next week and meet with leaders there "in order to study the possibilities for our participation in trying to bring about a long-lasting solution."

Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat recently agreed to restart stalled talks on reunifying the ethnically divided island. (AP)




OSCE Criticizes Azeris



BAKU, Azerbaijan -- The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has urged Azerbaijan to release four jailed journalists and protect a reporter at an opposition newspaper who was stabbed by unknown attackers.

Miklos Haraszti, media freedom representative for the OSCE, said after meeting the reporters Wednesday that he believed their imprisonment was politically motivated.

"It is a dangerous tendency when the authorities use law enforcement bodies against" disloyal journalists, Haraszti told a news conference. (Reuters)