TODAY: Russia blasts US for criticisms of dissent crackdown; another two dozen detained as protests continue; Ilya Yashin released. Tupolev-154s to be grounded? Amendments for START; icebreakers continue rescue efforts; winning hockey team’s celebrations fail to charm Delta airlines
‘When Obama was assuming his duties, he pledged not to repeat the errors made by his predecessor not to interfere in foreign countries’ affairs and not to force democracy on anyone in the world‘, says the chairman of Russia’s Foreign Affairs Committee, in a sign that the Kremlin is highly riled by the wave of criticisms from the US on the subject of curbing dissent. ‘The trouble is that the giving of permits has enabled the Kremlin to generate good press while maintaining arbitrary power for the police to crack down on protesters’, says RFE/RL in an overview of the single picket media attention. Moscow police say two dozen demonstrators were arrested yesterday on the fourth straight day of detentions of demonstrators. One of the four jailed opposition leaders, llya Yashin, has been freed. The Yabloko youth leader has said, ‘we’re going to appeal, but we understand that the sentences have nothing to do with the law’. In the wake of repression, several analysts have pointed to the hollowness of Medvedev’s pro-reform rhetoric, including this commentator in the Economist: ‘[H]is attempts to dissociate himself from the treatment of Mr Khodorkovsky and Mr Nemtsov do not absolve him from the responsibility that he bears, as guardian of Russia’s constitution, for the shortcomings of the courts and the government’.
In response to the plane crash which killed three people on New Year’s Day, Russia is considering grounding its entire fleet of Tupolev-154s, the antiquated stalwart of Soviet aviation, nearly 200 of which are still in operation. Ria-Novosti reports that the lower house of the Russian parliament has drawn up five amendments and two draft statements to the START treaty. Russia has dispatched a third icebreaker in an effort to rescue threeRussian ships which remain set in thick ice off the Far East coast.
Around thirty members of the Russian junior hockey team, which has just won the World Junior Hockey Championships, were prevented from boarding a Delta Air Lines flight for ‘unruly’ behavior. President Dmitry Medvedev wishes everyone a happy Christmas.
PHOTO: Members of Team Russia pose for a group photo with their gold medal following their 5-3 victory over Team Canada in the IIHF World Junior Championship gold medal final hockey action in Buffalo, N.Y. on Wednesday, January 5, 2011. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)