* The United States and Kyrgyzstan are continuing talks on the future of a US military transit center at Manas international airport, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake said.
* Tajikistan has once again blocked access to the popular social networking site Facebook, prolonging a months-long ordeal that has earned the Central Asian country widespread criticism.
* A Ukrainian children’s rights activist says he is seeking political asylum in Russia following an assassination attempt against him at home.
* Kazakhstan may join the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2013, WTO Director-General Pascal Lami said.
* A German-based couple accused of spying for Russia was allowed a brief reunion for the first time since their arrest in October 2011, Stuttgart court spokesman Stefan Schueler said
* The French military’s plans to wrap up its operation in Mali within weeks are overly optimistic, judging by past Tuareg uprisings in the country, a prominent expert on Mali and a former Russian envoy to the country said.
* Syrian militants have reduced the ransom for Ukrainian journalist Ankhar Kochneva from $50 million to $20 million, her former husband, Dmitry Petrov, told Ukraine’s Segodnya daily.
* Russia’s accession to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is a priority in Moscow’s economic policy, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said.
* Moscow expressed outrage after a US court imposed a $50,000 a day fine on Russia for failing to comply with an earlier order to hand over religious texts to the US Hasidic community in America.
* Russia’s prototype fifth-generation Sukhoi T-50 fighter jet has carried out its first long-range flight during the transfer from a manufacturing plant in Russia’s Far East to an assigned airfield near Moscow, deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said.
* Most Russians do not support the government’s move to impose a complete ban on smoking in public places and believe the emphasis should be on helping smokers quit, a pollster said
* Russian investigators brought a new charge against billionaire businessman and Kremlin critic Alexander Lebedev, in addition to the public disorder and battery charges he already faces in a case that could land him in prison for up to five years.
* Russian energy giant Gazprom posted an 11.9 percent fall year-on-year in its IFRS net profit for the first nine months of 2012, to 813.721 billion rubles ($26.8 billion) amid lower gas sales, the company said.
* The United States is expected to surpass Russia and Saudi Arabia in 2013 as the world’s largest producer of crude oil and biofuels, British oil major BP said in its latest report.
* The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) banned all flights by Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft due to a spate of safety incidents in the last two weeks involving the airliner, EASA said.
* IRC, the iron ore division of the London-listed gold miner Petropavlovsk Plc, has signed a tentative deal to raise $238 million from Chinese firms to finance its production growth in the Far East, the company said.
* Adam Osmayev, a suspect in an alleged plot to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin last January who is currently on trial in Ukraine, claimed torture and retracted his earlier testimony as having been made under duress.
* A man who falsely claimed he was a Russian military general managed to dupe Chinese businessmen last summer for nearly $600,000, the Russian Interior Ministry said.