RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Jan 4, 2011

icebreaker--007.jpgTODAY: Ekho Moskvy correspondent detained for report on Strategy 31 detainees; Dec 31 crackdown draws US criticism; Belarus frees one presidential candidate; Lithuania hopes to intervene on Minsk’s OSCE decision.  Medvedev to put off Israel trip; new initiative to fill vacant army positions; sailors trapped in Sea of Okhotsk; Tolstoy

Members of Russia’s opposition have picketed government buildings in the capital in protest against the incarceration of their movement’s leaders during the weekend’s freedom of assembly rallies.  Ria-Novosti reports that Ekho Moskvy correspondent Alexei Pozdnyakov was detained near a pretrial detention center as he reported about single-person pickets in support of the jailed activists.  US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley has criticized the Kremlin for the arrests, highlighting in a statement, ‘the importance of embracing and protecting universal values, including freedom of expression and assembly’.

The Belarussian government has freed Christian Democratic Party Vitaly Rymashevsky, one of its five jailed opposition presidential candidates; about 200 out of 650 detainees from the election opposition crackdown are thought to remain in jail.  Lithuania has said it will try to persuade its authoritarian neighbor to reconsider its decision to eject the OSCE over the rights watchdog’s criticisms of the election.  A Washington Post editorial stresses the importance of the US recognizing and denouncing the repressive momentum in the country since Lukashenko’s re-election.  President Medvedev will postpone his planned visit to Israel this month because of a strike by Israeli Foreign Ministry staff. 

Ex-criminals will apparently be filling the holes in Russia’s armed forces thanks to a new decree.  A Russian icebreaker is attempting to reach 500 sailors trapped in three ships locked in ice in the Sea of Okhotsk.  Has Tolstoy suffered from having so many communist fans? wonders the New York Times.

PHOTO: A Russian icebreaker is on its way to rescue 500 sailors on five ships in the Sea of Okhotsk.  (Daisy Gilardini/Getty Images)