US senators blast 'shameful' Russia arrests
Two senior US senators on Wednesday blasted Russia's "shameful and outrageous" arrests of opposition members, including former first deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov.
Republican Senator John McCain and Independent Senator Joe Lieberman said they were "deeply disappointed" by the arrests "and by the unjust prison sentences they have received."
"The treatment of Mr Nemtsov and other members of the opposition should provide a stark warning to the rest of the world about the disregard for rule of law that has come to characterize contemporary Russia," they said in a joint statement.
Russian police detained several opposition leaders among nearly 120 protesters during New Year's Eve rallies held in central Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
Moscow authorities allowed the opposition to stage a traditional end-of-month demonstration on Friday to assert their right to gather under the Russian constitution.
The 300-strong crowd chanted slogans in support of the jailed Kremlin critic and former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whose jail term was extended by six years Thursday, and called for broader political freedoms.
But several opposition leaders, including Nemtsov, broke through police lines, prompting their immediate arrest, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
"What makes this episode all the more shameful and outrageous is that the Moscow municipal government had granted a license for the rally at which these individuals were evidently arrested," said the US lawmakers.
"Despite the start of a new year, it seems the same old culture of legal nihilism continues to reign in Russia."
© 2011 AFP