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News Briefs

Putin Speaks Out Against Repeat of Ukraine Election


President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia waded deep into Ukraine’s electoral crisis on Thursday, dismissing the challenger’s demand for a repeat of the disputed presidential runoff election and criticizing European efforts to mediate.

Putin made his remarks during a meeting with President Leonid D. Kuchma, who made an unexpected trip to Russia even as Ukrainian lawmakers wrangled over the details of holding new elections and the Supreme Court heard arguments to nullify the results of the vote on Nov. 21, which was tainted by allegations of widespread fraud.

The meeting -- at an airport outside Moscow as Putin prepared to fly to India for a state visit -- came only hours after Kuchma and his chosen successor, Prime Minister Viktor F. Yanukovich, the nominal winner, had met with the Western-leaning challenger, Viktor A. Yushchenko, and with European diplomats. That meeting, on Wednesday night, yielded several agreements designed to settle the increasingly bitter and tense impasse over the runoff.

The election imbroglio has exposed Russia’s desire to maintain its influence over its former czarist and Soviet domains. Putin’s direct interference underscores his keen desire to keep Ukraine, in particular, Russia’s historical and cultural partner, from tipping toward the West and further diminishing Moscow’s reach.

Lesbian Minister Defrocked For Violating Church Law


In the second ecclesiastical trial of a gay Methodist minister in less than a year, a jury of 13 clergy in eastern Pennsylvania convicted a fellow pastor of violating church law by living in a lesbian relationship and ordered her defrocked.

The ruling is evidence of the United Methodist Church’s efforts this summer to tighten rules banning “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” from the ministry, a step that gained greater urgency after the jury in a trial in Bothell, Wash., last March cleared another lesbian minister of breaking church law.

At the trial in Pughtown, Penn., the jury voted 12-1 against the Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud, the associate pastor at Philadelphia’s First United Methodist Church of Germantown. It then voted 7-6 to remove her from the ministry.

Documents Show CIA Knew Of a Coup Plot in Venezuela


The CIA was aware that dissident military officers and opposition figures in Venezuela were planning a coup against President Hugo Chavez in 2002, newly declassified intelligence documents show. But immediately after the overthrow, the Bush administration blamed Chavez, a left-leaning populist, for his own downfall and denied knowing about the threats.

Long irritated by Chavez’s ties to Fidel Castro and his blistering anti-American attacks, the Bush administration provided the Venezuelan government in Caracas with few hard details of the looming plot, although U.S. officials say they broadly talked to Chavez about opposition plans.

Chavez was removed from power on April 12, 2002, after 18 people died in a spate of gunfire during a huge anti-government protest. Taken into custody by dissident military officers, Chavez was spirited out of Caracas while an interim government led by Pedro Carmona, a Caracas businessman, took power.