Shootouts with police and accusations of fraud threatened to wreck Sunday's critical parliamentary election in ethnic-Albanian areas of Macedonia just as the small Balkan nation sought to prove itself a worthy candidate for membership in the European Union (EU) and NATO. At least one death was reported, and 17 polling places were closed due to irregularities and voter intimidation. The violence was blamed on rival parties vying for the vote of the Albanian minority. In April, Greece blocked Macedonia's path to EU membership because the former shares its name with a Greek province.
Three hundred more Russian troops were sent to the breakaway region of Abkhazia over the weekend, deepening tensions with Georgia's government. The latter denounced the move as "yet another aggressive step ... against the territorial integrity of Georgia." But the Russian Defense Ministry said the troops are unarmed railway security personnel who will help to restore freight service to Sochi on the Black Sea, site of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.