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A policeman detains one of the opposition activists holding the so-called "single picket" in support of jailed opposition members in Moscow on January 5.
Moscow police have forcibly dispersed three separate picket actions in support of jailed Russian opposition leaders.

At least 10 of the participants were detained during the January 5 confrontations, including Sergei Udaltsov, leader of the Left Front, and Mikhail Shneyder of the Solidarity movement.

Shneyder told RFE/RL's Russian Service that the detainees were all released but must appear in court on January 6.

Udaltsov was reportedly detained while holding a sign during a single picket, when no more than one individual at a time participates in order to avoid frequently invoked laws on unauthorized rallies. He accused nearby "provocateurs" of lifting signs while he was speaking in an effort to give police grounds to detain him, according to RFE/RL's Russian Service.

The individuals who raised their own signs were from a group called "Young Russia."

There were allegations by opposition members of provocateurs involved in other detentions as well.

Konstantin Kosyakin, Boris Nemtsov, Ilya Yashin, and Eduard Limonov were detained during opposition rallies in Moscow on December 31 and subsequently sentenced to between five days and two weeks of administrative arrest for refusing to follow police orders.

The pickets were not the first demonstration against the earlier opposition arrests. On January 4, police briefly detained 35 protest participants.

compiled from RFE/RL and agency reports
Vital Rymasheuski following the clashes in Minsk on December 19.
One of the five opposition presidential candidates arrested during mass protests that followed Belarus's election last month has been released from jail, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Vital Rymasheuski was released overnight on December 31-January 1 on condition that he not leave the city.

A colleague from Rymasheuski's Belarusian Christian Democracy party confirmed the news.

Denis Sadovski of the party said that Rymasheuski was expected to be questioned by the State Security Committee again on January 4.

His release was reportedly intended to allow him an opportunity "to write an explanatory note to [President Alyaksandr] Lukashenka," according to RFE/RL's Belarus Service.

Rymasheuski planned to hold a press conference on January 4 but that event was canceled, reportedly because such public statements could contravene the terms of his release.

Rymasheuski and four other candidates who ran against incumbent President Lukashenka have been charged in connection with the demonstrations that broke out in Minsk after the December 19 vote that officials say gave Lukashenka a fourth term.

They could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

More than 600 people were detained in the bloody crackdown on postelection protesters.

OSCE Working To Continue Belarus Work

Meanwhile, the OSCE chairperson in office, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis, says that chairmanship has begun consultations to find a solution that would enable the OSCE to continue its work in Belarus.

Azubalis said he "deeply regrets" that Belarusian authorities did not extend the mandate of the OSCE Office in Minsk.

Azubalis said the OSCE "started informal consultations to find an agreement acceptable to all."

U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley questioned Minsk's decision to shutter the OSCE office in the wake of the December 19 vote.

"The United States deeply regrets the government of Belarus's decision to terminate the mission of the OSCE office in Minsk," Crowley said. "It was founded to assist the Belarusian government in institution-building, promoting the rule of law, and encouraging outreach to civil society, and the mandate of that mission is not completed, as the OSCE's critical assessment of the presidential elections indicates."

Crowley called the expulsion "a step backwards in the development of democratic government and respect for human rights in Belarus."

The OSCE has maintained a presence in Minsk since 1998.

Its mandate must be renewed annually by the 56 OSCE participating states, and expired on December 31 after Belarusian authorities refused to extend it.

based on RFE/RL and agency reports

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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