News in Brief

German Minister to Visit

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will arrive Monday for a five-day visit to Moscow and two other Russian cities, Itar-Tass reported Saturday.

Steinmeier plans to talk with Russian officials about Russia-EU relations, Iran's nuclear program and recent developments in Abkhazia, the report said, citing the German government.

Steinmeier will also visit Yekaterinburg and St. Petersburg before leaving on May 16. (MT)

Protester Gets 13 Days

An anti-Kremlin activist detained at an unauthorized opposition rally in central Moscow on the eve of President Dmitry Medvedev's inauguration has been sentenced to 13 days in prison.

Oleg Kozlovsky, leader of the Oborona group, which is part of The Other Russia opposition coalition, was detained along with about 60 other people last Tuesday, The Other Russia said.

Moscow's Basmanny District Court handed down the sentence last Wednesday.

At least 20 detainees have been released, some have been fined, and several have been jailed for three to seven days, The Other Russia said. (MT)

2 Crashes Kill 12

Twelve people have been killed and five others injured in two road accidents in southern Russia, emergency officials said Saturday.

Officials say a car swerved into the oncoming lane early Saturday on a highway in the Saratov region and crashed into another vehicle, killing six people and gravely injuring three others.

Authorities said a similar accident took place in the Astrakhan region. The driver of a passenger car drifted into the other lane early Saturday and struck a car head-on, killing six people and injuring two others. (AP)

2 Dead in Ingushetia

Police killed two gunmen during an operation in Ingushetia, Interfax reported Saturday.

Another was injured and detained when police stormed a house in a village in the region, which borders Chechnya.

Ingushetia's branch of the Interior Ministry said the dead men, both Ingush, belonged to armed groups suspected of recent attacks on police and other acts of violence, Interfax reported.

Police found four grenade launchers, two machine guns, a pistol and rebel literature in the house, Itar-Tass quoted the ministry as saying. (Reuters)

Poland on Missile Defense

WARSAW -- Poland's foreign minister said the government would not interfere if the U.S. administration sought a different country to accept part of a missile defense system.

"From what I know, it would be less advantageous, but undoubtedly possible" to place a base elsewhere, Radoslaw Sikorski said Friday on Polish state Radio 1.

Warsaw and Washington have been locked in protracted negotiations over a U.S. request to place 10 interceptor missiles in northern Poland as part of protection for Europe and North America against possible attacks from unpredictable nations. Citing vehement Russian protests against the plans, Poland is demanding a significant U.S. contribution toward upgrading its defenses in exchange. (AP)

Naked Protester Detained

A St. Petersburg protester has been detained for riding a bike naked in the city center in an attempt to attract the authorities' attention to a lack of bicycle paths.

Roman Lutoshkin, who undressed himself on Palace Square on May 3, has been charged with hooliganism and, if convicted, faces up to 15 days in jail, reported Thursday.

About 40 other cyclists -- dressed and wearing respiratory masks -- joined Lutoshkin at the protest, which also denounced city pollution.

Lutoshkin is the leader of the Black Flags movement, which staged several protests last year against purported legal violations by the traffic police. (MT)

Carousel Ride Kills 2

KIEV -- Two people died and eight were injured when a carousel broke down in an amusement park in Ukraine.

The centrifugue-style carousel slammed into its supporting pole in a park in the eastern city of Luhansk on Friday. As it continued spinning, passengers were flung away and many fell on the ground. (AP)

Armenian Blasts 'Genocide'

VATICAN CITY -- Armenia's Orthodox leader has used the pulpit of the Vatican to condemn the 1915 killing of 1.5 million ethnic Armenians by Ottoman Turks, saying the whole world should recognize it as a genocide.

"We Armenians are a people who have survived genocide, and we know well the value of love, brotherhood, friendship and a secure life," Karekin II said in a public address during Pope Benedict's general audience in St. Peter's Square last week.

In his address to Karekin before the crowd, Benedict spoke of "the severe persecutions suffered by Armenian Christians, especially during the last century," but did not use the word genocide. (Reuters)

Azeri Court Jails 5

BAKU, Azerbaijan -- Five employees of a construction firm, including the head engineer, have been jailed by an Azeri court for violating safety procedures that led to a building collapsing and killing 25 people.

The nearly finished 14-story building collapsed across a road in central Baku on Aug. 28, killing the 25, most of whom were construction workers on the site.

The court last week sentenced the head engineer of the Mutafakkir construction firm, Asker Aliev, to nine years in prison, with three foremen and an architect receiving terms from four to seven years. (Reuters)

U.S. Prisoner's Health

MINSK -- A lawyer said the health of a U.S. citizen jailed in Belarus appeared to be worsening rapidly.

Emanuel Zeltser is being held by the KGB on charges of using false documents. He has been jailed since mid-March.

Lawyer Dmitry Goryachko said he saw Zeltser late Tuesday and that his condition seems to have worsened "strikingly." Goryachko said Zeltser, 54, is not getting all the medication he needs for his diabetes. (AP)

UN Tackles Tajik Locusts

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan -- Tajik authorities are working with the United Nations to limit a severe locust infestation that threatens its maize and wheat crops.

"We still have enough time to prevent the insects from spreading further," said Shukhrat Igamberdyev, an official of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Tajikistan. His office has raised $410,000 in international aid to fight the infestation.

Tajik officials have voiced confidence about containing the problem. Muzaffar Jurayev, head of the state anti-locust company, said the infestation was limited to remote pastures in the Pamir mountains. (Reuters)