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    Mass prosecution of Ukrainian opposition members violates human rights

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    MOSCOW, July 1 (RIA Novosti) - The mass wave of criminal investigations into opposition members who supported the current president's rival in the presidential race last December violates human rights, a prominent member of the lower chamber of the Russian parliament said Friday.

    Andrei Kokoshin, the chairman of the State Duma's committee for the CIS affairs and Russian diaspora relations, said the Duma continued to follow the measures the Ukrainian authorities were taking against the political opposition. He said the committee also kept track on what Ukrainian parliamentarians, leaders of political parties and public organizations, regional legislators and other influential figures had to say on the matter.

    According to Kokoshin, hundreds and even thousands of criminal investigations have been launched against dissidents - those who actively supported Viktor Yanukovich, the rival of current leader Viktor Yushchenko, in last year's presidential elections.

    The Duma committee, in particular, named the arrests of such political leaders as Boris Kolesnikov, the chairman of the Donetsk (eastern Ukraine) legislature, and Ivan Rizak, the former governor of the Transcarpathian region (western Ukraine).

    Kokoshin also described the opening of the so-called case On Separatism against Viktor Tikhonov, the chairman of the Lugansk legislature (southeastern Ukraine, close to the Russian border) as "an undisguised political process". He said Tikhonov was one of those who summoned leaders of southeastern Ukraine to Severodonetsk after Yushchenko won the elections when they raised the issue of Ukraine's federative system. This meeting followed unrest caused by a confrontation between western and eastern Ukraine, with the former supporting Viktor Yushchenko and the latter backing Viktor Yanukovich. Tikhonov then said the issue should be addressed within the framework of the Ukrainian constitution to safeguard the country's integrity.

    According to Kokoshin, a similar situation is now developing around Yevgeny Kushnarev, the former governor of the Kharkov region (northeastern Ukraine) and a prominent politician from eastern Ukraine.

    Kokoshin said Russian parliamentarians considered political persecution of these and other leaders to be a threat to the civil freedoms of the majority of Ukrainians, particularly, Russian-speaking ones.

    According to him, the scale of the persecution is alarming, and therefore, Russian parliamentarians have lodged a relevant appeal to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

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