News in Brief

Zyazikov Relative Killed

Gunmen on Wednesday killed the cousin of Ingushetia's president and critically wounded the dean of a local institute in the troubled southern Russian region, local police said.

Bekkhan Zyazikov, the cousin of Ingush President Murat Zyazikov, was a senior official in the regional bus network system, Reuters reported.

Police said Bekkhan Zyazikov was shot in his car at an intersection in Nazran, the largest town in the region.

The dean of Ingueshtia's Law and Economics Institute, Sulambek Khalukhaev, was shot by unidentified gunmen in his car, Ekho Moskvy reported.

Bomb attacks, assassinations and kidnappings have increased in Ingushetia over the past year, and last month an opposition leader was shot while in police custody.

Police say he died after lunging for a weapon, but human rights groups called the killing an assassination.

There have also been assassination attempts on Murat Zyazikov, who is supported by the Kremlin. (Reuters, MT)

Georgia Extradition Request

PARIS -- A French appeals court has rejected a request by Georgia to extradite Former Georgian Defense Minister Irakly Okruashvili, a fierce critic of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, a judicial source said Wednesday.

A Georgian court found Okruashvili guilty of corruption in March and sentenced him in absentia to 11 years in prison.

Okruashvili fled to Europe in 2007 after being granted bail in the case, and France subsequently gave him asylum, even though the extradition proceedings were still before the courts.

In its final ruling, the appeals court said he could stay in France, the source said. (Reuters)

NATO Ends Naval Exercise

BRUSSELS -- NATO said Wednesday that it has ended a routine exercise by four naval ships in the Black Sea that Russia had denounced as part of a Western military buildup sparked by the Georgia conflict.

The alliance says the four ships -- a U.S. frigate and similar vessels from Spain, Germany and Poland -- were moving back to the Mediterranean Sea after the 18-day mission.

Moscow said the deployment of the ships was a buildup of NATO forces in the Black Sea in violation of international agreements. It saw the ships' presence there as a provocative act resulting from NATO's opposition to Russia's move to invade parts of Georgia.

NATO says the exercise was planned well before the Georgia crisis and was designed to improve coordination with the navies of Romania and Bulgaria, which joined the alliance in 2004. The NATO ships stayed close to the coasts of the two allied nations, well away from Georgia, NATO said. (AP)

Merkel Talks Energy Bond

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday that her country and Russia were bound by common ties stronger than any "controversies" that may divide them, a reference to Russia's military incursion into Georgia last month, which she condemned.

Addressing an event in Leipzig, Merkel said, "Long-term gas contracts are based on mutual interests" and not a one-sided relationship.

"Russia needs customers and we need deliveries, and that goes also for the European Union," she said. "I see many future opportunities. Of course we have controversies, yet we have shared interests, and we should cement these links and make them more binding."

Merkel's comments reflect Germany's political and economic engagement with Russia that began in the 1960s and reached its zenith under her predecessor Gerhard SchrЪder. (Bloomberg)