US concerned for Russian protesters

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The United States on Wednesday voiced concern over the treatment of protesters rounded up in Russia as the opposition led major demonstrations to contest the results of parliamentary elections.

"We've expressed our concerns about the treatment of all those being arrested who were exercising their rights to peaceful protest," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.

"We would obviously support the rights of anyone to peaceful protest -- emphasis on peaceful -- anywhere in the world," Toner said. "Russia's no different."

Toner said he was not aware of any formal diplomatic exchange about the protests. But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has publicly questioned the fairness of the election, angering Russia.

Riot police in helmets roughly dragged over 550 protesters into detention vans Tuesday evening in central Moscow, in what commentators have described as the biggest opposition rallies since the chaotic early 1990s.

Despite the rallies, the opposition has pledged more rallies to protest what it sees as fraud in Sunday's election in which Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party won but with a surprisingly reduced majority.

© 2011 AFP

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