News in Brief

Belarus Urged to Use Ruble

MINSK -- Belarus should switch from dollars to rubles in paying for energy shipments, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Monday as the two neighbors and allies held difficult talks on energy prices.

Putin urged Belarus to move toward adopting the ruble as a single currency.

He said that as a first step, both Russia and Belarus should phase out the use of dollars in their energy trade. Belarus' economy depends on relatively cheap energy supplies from Russia. (AP)

Abkhaz Border Guard Killed

A border guard from Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia was killed in a gunfight with Georgian forces on Monday, the separatist administration said, but officials in Tbilisi said they knew nothing about the incident.

The gunfight took place in the village of Nabakevi in Abkhazia's Gali district, adjacent to Georgian-controlled territory, said Ruslan Kishmaria, the chief representative in Gali of separatist leader Sergei Bagapsh. (Reuters)

Railroad Tracks Blown Up

An explosive device with the power of 2 kilograms of dynamite destroyed 2.4 meters of railroad tracks in the Moscow region, a law enforcement source said, RIA-Novosti reported. No one was injured.

The blast, which occurred on Ulitsa Ryazhskoi in Vidnom, a town just south of Moscow, destroyed the section of the rail line leading into the territory of a company called Moskoks.

The police have opened a criminal investigation into an incident of hooliganism. The charge carries a penalty of up to two years in prison. (MT)

Orthodox Bishop Defrocked

An outspoken Orthodox bishop, Diomid of Chukotka, was stripped of his rank by the synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on Monday, Interfax reported. Several clerics who supported him were defrocked.

Diomid has criticized the church for supporting the government and widening contacts with other faiths. (MT)

Last-Minute Coalition Call

KIEV -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko made a last-minute call Monday for lawmakers to form a governing coalition and avoid snap elections.

But Yushchenko also signaled in a statement that he did not trust his estranged Orange Revolution partner Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to revive their shattered alliance and indicated he wanted to call the early vote. (AP)

Robber Heists $700M

A robber stole 18 million rubles ($700,000) of gold jewelry and cash from the Moscow apartment of a businessman, RIA-Novosti reported Monday, citing police.

The thief used a key to enter the front door of a Moscow apartment owned by the head of an unidentified construction firm on Saturday, the report said. (Bloomberg)