News in Brief

Obama's Speech Praised



Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday that he hoped negotiations would begin soon with Washington to renew the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

Obama told his first news conference at the White House on Monday that one of his goals is to prevent nuclear proliferation. "I think that it's important for the United States, in concert with Russia, to lead the way on this," he said, according to a transcript published by CNN.

"We are happy that the new U.S. administration is giving such weight to the issue," Lavrov said, Interfax reported.

Kremlin spokeswoman Natalya Timakova said later Tuesday that Russia took a positive view of signals from the new U.S. administration that it wanted to relaunch ties and Moscow was ready to work with Washington on disarmament. (MT, Reuters)




Kremlin Picks Duma Envoy



President Dmitry Medvedev has appointed Garry Minkh as the Kremlin's envoy in the State Duma, Interfax reported Tuesday, citing the presidential press service.

Minkh's predecessor, Alexander Kosopkin, died in a helicopter crash during a hunting trip in the Altai region Jan. 9.

Minkh, 50, had been the Kremlin's envoy to the Federation Council since October 2002. A lawyer by education, Minkh is a professor at State University -- Higher School of Economics. (MT)




Pilot Error Blamed in Crash



The chief pilot of an Aeroflot-Nord Boeing 737-500 that crashed in September killing all 88 people on board had alcohol in his blood, but the primary cause of the crash was poor training, investigators said Tuesday.

"A forensic study … detected the presence of ethyl alcohol in the crew commander's body before his death," Alexei Morozov, head of the investigating commission, told a news conference. "The crew commander's regime of work and rest in the period preceding this aviation accident was a factor behind his overall tiredness and ran counter to the established standards."

Morozov said the crew had lost its orientation flying at night through thick cloud, with the aircraft's autopilot and automated throttle control switched off. He said the crew had not been adequately trained to fly on that type of plane. (Reuters)




Putin Approves Car Order



Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed an order Tuesday clearing some 12.5 billion rubles ($346 million) for purchases of locally built cars by the Interior, Defense and Emergency Situations ministries as well as the customs, drug control and foreign intelligence services.

The money will come on top of Monday's government decision to spend 2 billion rubles this year to subsidize interest rates on car loans. Subsidies of car loans will benefit only Russian carmakers because the car price was limited to just below $10,000.

State officials may enjoy a more generous approach because no limits have been set on car prices, which could effectively allow intelligence officers to drive Toyota's Camry models or BMWs assembled in Russia. (Reuters)