Russia used 'disproportionate' force at rally: official
Russia's top human rights official called for a probe Tuesday after police used "disproportionate" force to break up an opposition rally and detained around 150 protesters.
"The heads of the interior ministry should carry out a thorough investigation of what happened," the country's human rights ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin said after witnessing the rally, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
Hundreds of opposition activists had gathered for the rally, which had not been authorised by the city authorities, on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad, in central Moscow on Monday evening.
Lukin, who attended as an observer, called the police actions "rough" and "disproportionate."
"People were grabbed, dragged along the tarmac," he said.
The breaking up of the rally was a "serious step backwards in the path to enacting the 31st article of the constitution," which guarantees the right to freedom of assembly, he said.
Police detained activists including Ilya Yashin, a leader of the opposition group Solidarnost. They were all subsequently released.
A journalist from news web site Gazeta.ru had his arm broken in two places while being detained by police, RIA Novosti reported, citing the site's editor, Mikhail Mikhailin.
The harsh police measures came after Putin said in a televised meeting on Saturday that the authorities should not "create impossible conditions for the expression of freedom of speech."
Opposition activists hold regular rallies on the 31st day of the month, protesting against restrictions on freedom of assembly, which is protected by article number 31 of the Russian constitution.
The Moscow authorities regularly refuse permission to hold the rallies on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad in central Moscow, saying the venue is being used for other events.
Lukin slammed the "disproportional and sometimes extremely cruel use of police forces against participants of 'non-sanctioned' public events" in a report on Russia's human rights situation published Friday.
© 2010 AFP