News in Brief

Duma Warns Lithuania

State Duma deputies warned Lithuania against agreeing to place U.S. missile defense sites on its soil, saying Wednesday that such a move could trigger a Russian military buildup in the region.

Russia could deploy more troops to its Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad if Lithuania offers its territory for the deployment of U.S. missile interceptors, said a statement approved unanimously by the Duma.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas was in Washington on Wednesday for talks with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said he did not know if the two were discussing the possibility of placing missile-defense components in Lithuania.

But on Tuesday the Pentagon said Lithuania would be a "good alternative" to Poland if negotiations with Warsaw collapse. (AP)

9 Dead in Helicopter Crash

A helicopter crashed in the Yamal-Nenets autonomous district on Wednesday, killing nine of the 16 people aboard, the Emergency Situations Ministry said.

The Mi-8 helicopter operated by UTair was carrying oil workers when it went down in the petroleum-rich Siberian region.

Three crew members and four passengers survived, ministry spokeswoman Natalya Lukash said.

UTair spokesman Yury Mushikhin said the aircraft was flying to an oil-drilling platform. (AP)

Policeman Frees Prisoners

Five criminal suspects escaped from a pre-trial detention facility in the Novgorod region after a drunk policeman opened the cell doors and proceeded to fall asleep.

On June 21, the police officer at the facility in the region's Krestetsky district gave alcoholic beverages to the detainees and retrieved the keys to the cells from the control room, the newspaper Novgorod reported, citing regional prosecutors. He then opened the cells without permission and fell asleep, at which point the five detainees fled.

Three of the detainees have since been recaptured. Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said Wednesday that the officer had been charged with abuse of office, Interfax reported. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison. (MT)