News in Brief

Yabloko Calls for Funds

The leader of the liberal Yabloko party, Sergei Mitrokhin, called on supporters on Friday to help the party out of financial straits.

Mitrokhin asked supporters to start making monthly contributions to the party's Moscow branch in order to help amass significant financial resources for next year's City Duma elections in a message posted on the party's Moscow web site.

Yabloko failed to make it over the 3 percent barrier in the Dec. 2 Duma elections, which was a requirement to qualify for free television airtime during the campaign.

The party now must repay almost 225 million rubles ($9 million) to the federal budget. (MT)

Opposition Leader Released

MINSK -- Jailed Belarussian opposition leader Alexander Kozulin, considered in the West to be the country's most prominent political prisoner, was released on Saturday and is on his way home, his daughter said.

Western countries have long made his release a condition for improving ties with Belarus and President Alexander Lukashenko, accused of crushing fundamental freedoms.

"This morning he phoned me from the prison and said he had been released," Olga Kozulina said by telephone.

The Interfax West news agency quoted sources in Lukashenko's administration as saying that Kozulin had been pardoned. Officials made no comment.

Kozulin was one of two opposition candidates who went up against Lukashenko in a 2006 election and was jailed for 5 1/2 years for helping stage mass protests against the official result declaring the president the winner by a landslide. (Reuters)