News in Brief

Surkov Says No Thaw

A key Kremlin ideologue told senior United Russia officials that there will be no political thaw in Russia under Dmitry Medvedev's presidency and that the number of political parties in the country must be slashed drastically.

Vladislav Surkov, first deputy head of the presidential administration, said Wednesday that there is no room in the political landscape for "marginal" opposition groups, Vedomosti cited a source present at the meeting as saying.

The country needs no more than four political parties, and the remaining parties will have to merge or shut down, Surkov said, Vedomosti reported Thursday. (MT)

No Security in S. Ossetia

Neither South Ossetia's government nor the Russian army are providing adequate security for citizens in the territory after last month's Russia-Georgia war, rights groups said Thursday.

Representatives of the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch and Russian rights group Memorial were reporting on a trip to the province, which until the conflict was a patchwork of South Ossetian and ethnic Georgian villages.

"Currently the [ethnic] Georgian villages we visited … are practically burnt to the ground. Now, a month after military operations, the final houses are being torched, and every day we saw new fires, said Alexander Cherkasov of Memorial. (Reuters)

NATO to Visit Georgia

BRUSSELS -- NATO chiefs will visit Tbilisi next week in a demonstration of support after Russia's incursion last month smashed Georgia's military.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and envoys of the 26 NATO allies will open the NATO-Georgia Commission, a body conceived after the conflict to bolster ties with Tbilisi.

The diplomats will also visit areas affected by last month's fighting during their two-day visit beginning on Monday, NATO spokesman James Appathurai said. (Reuters)