US 'troubled' at reports Russian protesters held

1st February 2011, Comments 0 comments

The United States said Monday it was "troubled" by reports that dozens of protesters were detained in Russia and that some had been mistreated, amid accusations of beatings by police.

In a statement, US National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said that Washington was also concerned about raids and criminal probes launched against "Strategy 31" political campaigners.

Vietor said such actions ran contrary to comments by President Dmitry Medvedev about the need to "widen the political space" in Russia and threatened aspirations common to all people.

President Barack Obama's administration has presided over a "reset" of relations with Russia, and says its strategy has yielded benefits on arms control and in global efforts to tackle Iran's nuclear challenge.

But it sometimes speaks out on political freedoms in Russia, to the irritation of the authorities in Moscow.

"The United States is troubled by reports of that dozens of people were detained in Moscow and other cities around Russia," Vietor said.

"Authorities arrested citizens seeking to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and some who were not even participating in the demonstration.

"We are troubled by reports that those detained were mistreated, including accusations of beatings of protesters by police.

"We urge the Russian government to act to safeguard the fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly for all citizens."

Earlier Monday, Russian authorities arrested the leading writer and dissident Eduard Limonov as he joined hundreds of opposition activists at a protest in central Moscow.

Moscow police spokesman Viktor Biryukov confirmed in comments to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency that Limonov was one of 20 people arrested along with Sergei Udaltsov, leader of the radical Left Front movement.

The arrests came after more than 500 opposition activists, including the former vice-prime minister Boris Nemtsov, had gathered for a rally billed as a defense of basic freedoms.

On Sunday, security forces had carried out searches of the Other Russia movement which includes Limonov among its leaders.

Meanwhile, in Russia's second city of Saint Petersburg, more than 60 people were arrested at an unauthorized protest in defence of the right to assembly, local police told AFP. More than 300 people took part in the demonstration.

© 2011 AFP

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