Russia must allow protests, stop arrests: France

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French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe on Sunday urged Russia to continue to allow demonstrations and denounced arrests of protesters accusing authorities of vote fixing.

"Freedom of expression must be respected in Russia. The multiplying arrests and detentions are not acceptable," he told TV5 television and Radio France International in a joint interview.

"We are calling on Russian authorities to dialogue and to avoid violence. The opposition must be allowed to protest" and "lessons be learned for the organisation of the next presidential election," he said.

Historic demonstrations in Moscow on Saturday saw more than 50,000 people deride the outcome of December 4 parliamentary elections that handed victory to the ruling party of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Hundreds of activists were arrested during other protests that followed the vote.

Juppe also criticised Putin's plan to return to the presidency in elections next year by swapping places with President Dmitry Medvedev.

"People don't like it very much when you play with democratic processes. Saying 'I'm the prime minister, you can have the presidency or the other way around' -- this is something that ends up angering people," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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