US 'regrets' jailing of Russian activist over demo: official

8th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

A top United States diplomat on Wednesday expressed regret at the jailing of a prominent Russian right activist that forced the campaigner to miss a key meeting with visiting US officials.

William Burns, the US under secretary of state for political affairs, in an interview with Russian news agency Interfax, expressed "regret" that he was unable to meet Lev Ponomaryov, who is serving a four-day jail sentence.

Ponomaryov, 69, was found guilty by a Moscow court on Tuesday of refusing to obey police orders during an opposition-organised August 12 protest against Moscow's mayor and his handling of a recent heatwave.

"Freedom of assembly is very important for the United States and important for any democratic society," Burns added in comments published in Russian. The US embassy in Moscow said a full version would be available later.

Ponomaryov was due to meet Burns and US President Barack Obama's Russian affairs advisor Michael McFaul on Wednesday, along with other human rights activists.

"I was invited to a working breakfast with Michael McFaul. The meeting will take place, but not with me," he told Interfax by telephone from the police van taking him to jail.

© 2010 AFP

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