Russia detains Dagestan mayor on murder charges

The mayor of the capital of the troubled Russian region of Dagestan has been detained on suspicion of organizing the murder of a senior state investigator, the Investigative Committee said yesterday. Said Amirov, 59, mayor of Makhachkala since 1998, and 10 others were detained, committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said in a statement. Amirov was transported to Moscow for further questioning, he said. Car bombs, suicide bombings and murders of officials are common in Dagestan, home to a deadly mixture of Islamist insurgency rooted in two post-Soviet wars against separatist rebels in neighboring Chechnya, and booming organized crime. ‏(Reuters‏)

Germany braces for more flooding after rains

German municipalities in the south and east were bracing for more floods yesterday after days of heavy rainfall. Water levels on the Rhine, Danube and Neckar rivers have risen steadily. At least two people have drowned in Germany in recent days because of the floods. Leipzig’s Volkszeitung newspaper reported on its website yesterday that officials had issued a disaster warning for the town of Borna. Authorities in Austria and Switzerland were also reinforcing defenses along rivers there. The city of Basel in northwest Switzerland was warning residents last night that the Rhine could break its banks. ‏(AP‏)

Russia’s smoking ban takes effect

A law that bans smoking in public places took effect yesterday in Russia, a contentious move in a country with one of the highest smoking rates in the world. The ban prohibits smoking in workplaces, schools, universities and on public transportation. More restrictions will be applied a year later. Authors of the ban have pointed to the hundreds of thousands of Russians who die of smoking-related illnesses every year. The measure has been approved by both houses of parliament and signed by President Vladimir Putin. Cigarettes are much cheaper in Russia than in the U.S. and Europe, starting at about $1 a pack. About 40 percent of Russians smoke. ‏(AP‏)