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    HALF HUMAN RIGHTS COMPLAINTS ARE ABOUT SOCIAL ISSUES

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    MOSCOW, March 1 (RIA Novosti) - Vladimir Lukin, Russia's ombudsman, met Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to present his annual report about the human rights situation in Russia.

    "The report is an X-ray picture of what is really happening in the country. These are letters, complaints, citizens' applications, and they reflect the outstanding problems and painful issues," the ombudsman said.

    Mr. Lukin also noted that 50% of complaints related to social issues, which he deems to be the most acute.

    Mr. Putin, in return, said that at his meeting with the UN human rights commissioner, the latter pointed that the most painful issues in the world resulted from social rights violation.

    Mr. Lukin replied that law 122 (the benefits law) had caused the most problems. In particular, the ombudsman said, preferential medicine sales have not been ensured yet.

    "Checks in some regions have revealed some shortages of listed medicines and growth in monopoly prices for medicines," said Mr. Lukin.

    He also said that prices for utilities had unjustifiably increased in view of the new housing code adoption.

    Vladimir Putin, in reply, said that the government was working to curb tariff growth, which, however, was not directly related to the housing code.

    "It depends on the policy of the regional authorities," said the head of state.

    A third of complaints were against arbitrariness and undue behavior of law-enforcers, said Mr. Lukin. "We have established good relations with the Interior Ministry. Following its initiative, we conduct parallel probes and checks, and report to them the results, but after that, the process gets stalled," said Mr. Lukin. He also noted that the authorities at all levels should feel obliged to act within the Constitution."

    Another issue on Vladimir Lukin's report was violations of the rights of the regional media.

    "A new governor summons the leader of a regional media outlet, accuses him of not voting for him, and says he now needs his own, loyal team," said Mr. Lukin.

    Vladimir Putin in return instructed the ombudsman participate in the control over implementing the government decision to set up a system in support of the regional media.

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