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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Dec 30, 2010

mikhail-khodorkovsky-russ-006.jpgTODAY: Economist Democracy Index sees Russia leaning towards authoritarianism; US acting department spokesman says Khodorkovsky trial will not be detrimental to relations; Putin lauds START as success for Medvedev; highlights cabinet unity.  Russians arrested in Minsk freed; Lithuania delves into Soviet-era tensions. Putin slams transportation officials; ice storms continue to reek havoc; Moscow traffic madness; goodbye kiosks

The Economist magazine has released its 2010 Democracy Index, in which Russia is ranked 107th out of 167 countries in terms of quality of democracy, making it a ‘hybrid regime’, only six spots away from being considered an authoritarian one. See a full breakdown of the results here.  As Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev await their sentence, the Guardian reports on judge Viktor Danilkin’s unusual oratory style, which according to the Washington Post, ‘put one of the prosecutors to sleep for several minutes’.  The US’ concerned response to the guilty verdict will not prevent the two countries from strengthening their cooperation, U.S. Acting Department Spokesman Mark Toner has said.
 
In his first comments on START since it received approval in the United States Senate, Vladimir Putin has praised the treaty as an unconditional success for President [Dmitry] Medvedev in foreign policy’.  According to Bloomberg, the Prime Minister emphasized the economic value that the treaty would bring.  At the last cabinet meeting of this year, Putin lauded the ‘unity’ and teamwork of the tandem. 



Russia’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed that Belarus has released all the Russian nationals detained in Minsk during a rally against the reelection of President Alexander Lukashenko.  Lithuania has set up a new working group to investigate crimes allegedly committed by Soviet servicemen against Lithuanian civilians in January 1991.
 
Vladimir Putin has come down heavily on senior transportation officials for what he considers to be the inadequate handling of the cancellations precipitated by last weekend’s ice storm and has banned Moscow aviation officials from taking their much-yearned for New Year holiday.  Apparently further snowfall has left 21,205 people in 140 towns without electricity. 

In an astounding testament to the chaos of Moscow’s roads, apparently traffic jams in the capital on Wednesday evening reached 3,200 km, equal to the distance between the Russian capital and Barcelona.  How Moscow has responded to the loss of its kiosks, on RFE/RL.

PHOTO: Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev try to stay awake.  (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)