News in Brief

Theme of Medvedev Speech



The global financial crisis will not be a main theme of President Dmitry Medvedev's first state-of-the-nation address, the Kremlin said Thursday.

Kremlin spokeswoman Natalya Timakova said the speech would focus on issues relating to domestic and international politics, Prime-Tass reported.

Medvedev was supposed to give the speech Thursday but delayed amid speculation that he was displeased with its content concerning the financial crisis.

Timakova said Medvedev was rewriting the speech and would deliver it "in the near future." (MT)




Official Sues Belkovsky



A senior Interior Ministry official has filed a libel suit against a web site owned by political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky for accusing him of corruption.

Preliminary hearings began Thursday at the Basmanny District Court in the lawsuit filed by Igor Tsokolov, head of the ministry's department that investigates organized economic crimes, against Belkovsky's web site, Apn.ru, a court spokeswoman said.

The web site accused Tsokolov of committing wrongdoing with two colleagues from his department who were arrested in June on bribery charges. Apn.ru also accused Tsokolov of fabricating a case against media activist Manana Aslamazyan, charged with smuggling cash into Russia in 2007.

Calls to Belkovsky's cell phone went unanswered Thursday afternoon. (MT)




Mercury Not Part of Plot



Mercury found in the car of Karina Moskalenko, a lawyer for the family of slain investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, was not connected to a poisoning plot against her, the French daily Le Figaro reported Thursday.

The previous owner of the car that she uses in Strasbourg, France, where Moskalenko lives part time, told police that the mercury found last week under the floor mats comes from a barometer that he accidentally broke in the car before selling it, the report said.

Moskalenko told police that she had not cleaned her car after buying it. (MT)




Philippine Scandal Grows



MANILA, Philippines -- Philippine lawmakers ordered the arrest of a retired police general on Thursday for skipping a senate inquiry into why he tried to take a large amount of money out of Moscow without declaring it.

Eliseo Dela Paz, a two-star general, was held at a Moscow airport last week when his wife's luggage was found to contain about 105,000 euros ($134,500). He was returning to the Philippines after an Interpol conference in St. Petersburg.

Dela Paz, who reached his retirement date while on the trip, did not attend an inquiry conducted by the Senate foreign relations panel on Thursday. (Reuters)




Regions to Slash Staff



Governors have announced plans to cut the number of civil servants by as much as 20 percent in response to the global financial crisis, Vedomosti reported Thursday.

Ulyanovsk Governor Sergei Morozov has ordered his government and municipal authorities to slash staff by 20 percent in January, Vedomosti cited an unidentified regional official as saying.

The Novgorod regional administration will lay off 100 employees after Dec. 1, a spokesperson for Novgorod Governor Valery Shantsev said. Regional governments in Tatarstan and Altai will also make cuts, the report said. (MT)




New Czech Visa Center



The Czech Embassy will open a new visa center in Moscow to speed up the issuance of short-term visas, the embassy said in a statement Thursday.

The center, located at 32 Malenkovskaya Ulitsa in northeastern Moscow, will open Nov. 5 and will allow applicants to follow the status of their visa application on the Internet. (MT)




Flu Outbreak Expected



Moscow and St. Petersburg will be hit by a flu outbreak in late December and early January, Gennady Onishchenko, the country's chief epidemiologist, said Thursday. (MT)