News in Brief

Editor Faces Trial



The deputy editor of the independent-minded daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta will be tried on charges of blackmail and possession of illegal drugs, the Investigative Committee said Friday, Interfax reported.

The editor, Boris Zemtsov, was detained in September on suspicion of blackmail. The newspaper said at the time that he was innocent.

The Investigative Committee said Friday that Zemtsov had demanded a monthly payment of $15,000 from an official at Soyuzplodoimport, the state-controlled company that owns the domestic rights to Stolichnaya vodka, in exchange for not publishing articles critical of the company, Interfax reported.

Police also found large quantities of illegal drugs during a search of Zemtsov's home, leading to the drug charges, the report said. (MT)




3 Acquitted of Murder



A Sakhalin jury Friday acquitted three men charged with the 2002 murder of Major General Vitaly Gamov.

It was the second acquittal for Alexei Anikin, Sergei Malyutin and Alexei Britov, whom prosecutors accused of hurling Molotov cocktails through the windows of Gamov's apartment in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in a contract killing ordered by people involved in illegal fishing.

Gamov was a deputy commander in what was then the Federal Border Guards Service on the Pacific coast. He died of severe burns in a Japanese hospital one week after the attack.

The suspects were acquitted once before by a jury, but the Supreme Court overturned the verdict. (MT)




EU Satellite Launched



An experimental satellite for a much-delayed European Union rival to the United States' GPS navigation system blasted into orbit Sunday after a successful launch atop a Russian rocket, the Russian and European space agencies said.

The Giove-B satellite shot into space atop a Soyuz-FG rocket launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, entering orbit at 8:01 a.m. as planned, the Federal Space Agency said.

The EU called the launch a key step toward its planned global satellite navigation system, Galileo. (AP)




EU Reprieve for Tashkent



BRUSSELS -- European Union foreign ministers are to agree on Tuesday to suspend sanctions on Uzbekistan for another six months but warn that they can be reapplied if human rights conditions do not improve.

The EU imposed visa bans on senior Uzbek officials after authorities crushed a revolt in Andijan in 2005.

A statement drafted by EU ambassadors on Thursday and due to be rubber-stamped by foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday said the EU remained concerned about the rights situation in Uzbekistan. It welcomed progress, however, including abolition of the death penalty and the release of human rights activists. (Reuters)




Locusts Infest Tajikistan



GENEVA -- Tajikistan needs urgent help to combat a locust infestation that threatens the impoverished country's food supply, the United Nations said Friday.

More than 150,000 hectares of the country are covered in locust eggs and larvae at various stages of development, said Elisabeth Byrs of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The insects threaten Tajikistan's maize and wheat crops and could cause shortages and exacerbate upward prices on food staples in the country. (Reuters)