08:04 GMT +324 September 2017

    Moscow human rights groups slate regional rally dispersion

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    MOSCOW, March 27 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow human rights activists have described the break-up of unauthorized opposition rallies in Nizhny Novgorod and St. Petersburg as "cynical provocation" and propose discussing the issue at an urgent meeting of the presidential expert council.

    The authorities in Nizhny Novgorod in Central Russia broke up the "March of Dissent", which attracted dozens of protesters March 24. A police spokesman said about 29 people had been detained.

    Earlier some 800 Russian opposition supporters gathered for an unsanctioned meeting in St. Petersburg March 3, with about 100 of them being detained.

    Presenting the annual report by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights Nina Tagankina, executive director of the Moscow Helsinki Group, said Tuesday that the Group and a number of non-governmental organizations had sent an open letter to Vladimir Lukin, Russia's human rights ombudsman, and Ella Pamfilova, the head of the presidential council on civil society institutions and human rights.

    The address reads, "We are appealing to you against the gross violations of human rights and basic freedoms, guaranteed by the Constitution and Russia's laws and stipulated by the European Convention."

    The human rights activists called the Nizhny Novgorod events on March 24 "violence against protesters, journalists and pedestrians," and said law enforcers and the local authorities should not determine national policy.

    The activists said that the organizers in Nizhny Novgorod and St. Petersburg had informed the authorities in due time, but faced illegitimate bans.

    On Monday, the U.S. State Department issued a press statement saying that "the reaction by local Russian authorities to the "March of Dissenters" rally in Nizhny Novgorod raised serious concerns about Russians' ability to exercise their rights to assembly, free speech, and peaceful protest."

    "More than a hundred political opposition activists were detained and a number reportedly beaten. Saturday's demonstration was the third in four months, following similar protests in St. Petersburg and Moscow, where accusations have been raised about the use of force and overreaction to peaceful protests by the Russian authorities," the press statement reads.

    According to the statement, "Our concerns are intensified by the difficulties that opposition political parties face in trying to register for elections. We call upon all Russian authorities to fully respect international standards involving press freedom, speech, and assembly."

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