Kremlin Press Corps Quits CIS Summit in Solidarity With Colleagues

MINSK, Belarus (RIA Novosti)– Members of Russia’s Kremlin press corps accompanying President Vladimir Putin on his trip to a CIS summit in Minsk left the conference venue Tuesday in solidarity with non-government reporters denied entry by the organizers. Three correspondents, accredited to cover the summit for the Moscow-based independent newspapers Moskovsky Komsomolets and Kommersant, were not allowed into the National Library where leaders of the biggest post-Soviet alliance were holding their annual meeting. According to an official explanation voiced by presidential spokesman Pavel Lekhky, two Moskovsky Komsomolets journalists and a Kommersant photographer were barred from the event for allegedly disparaging articles they had written about Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, dubbed Europe’s last dictator by Washington. "One of the reasons for denying access was the offense to the Belarusian head of state and the systematic offense to Belarus," he said. Kommersant Editor Andrei Vasilyev said, "We will not write anything about the summit, of course." He said the incident, "shameful to Belarus," seemed to have overshadowed the main event, and applauded the Kremlin press corps’ decision to show support for their colleagues by walking out. "I believe they struck the right balance between the principles and the trade." Moskovsky Komsomolets Editor Pavel Gusev explained, "Our newspaper has in recent years been pursuing a very critical line toward Lukashenko and the undemocratic methods he uses in governing Belarus."

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