News in Brief

Putin, Medvedev at Congress



Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev are to address United Russia's annual congress Thursday in the Gostiny Dvor shopping center, 200 meters from the Kremlin.

At last year's gathering in the same location, then-President Putin announced that he would head United Russia after delegates representing workers and intellectuals urged him to lead them -- in a throwback to Soviet-era congresses.

The decision for Putin to lead the party gave him a power base in the State Duma and entrenched his status as what some supporters describe as "national leader."

Sources in the Duma, where United Russia holds 315 of the 450 seats, said the three-hour congress could be used to criticize economic policy. (Reuters)




Obama Calls Nazarbayev



U.S. President-elect Barack Obama discussed security and enhanced cooperation in a telephone conversation with Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazarbayev.

"Everyone knows that the U.S. is the driving force behind many global processes," Nazarbayev told a meeting of diplomats Wednesday in Astana, state news service Kazinform reported. "The desire to establish regular, mutually beneficial cooperation with the new administration in Washington is completely understandable."

Nazarbayev "stressed Kazakhstan's interest in the further development of all areas of bilateral cooperation" with the United States in the conversation with Obama late Tuesday, Nazarbayev's press service said on its web site. (Bloomberg)




Ex-UN Official Sent Home



A former Russian diplomat to the UN convicted in the United States of money laundering and fraud will serve the last 16 months of his sentence in a Russian prison, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

Vladimir Kuznetsov arrived in Moscow on Wednesday after being handed over by U.S. Justice Department officials, the ministry said.

The former diplomat was sentenced last year to more than four years in a U.S. prison after being convicted of laundering money from foreign companies seeking UN contracts. A Moscow court also has fined Kuznetsov 1 million rubles ($36,400), the Foreign Ministry said. Russia had wanted Kuznetsov, ex-chair of the UN's budget oversight committee, to serve his sentence at home. (AP)