US raises concern with Russia about protest crackdowns

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The United States said Wednesday it had raised concerns with Russia about its crackdown on opposition protests aimed at demonstrating their constitutional right to demonstrate.

"Through our embassy, we have expressed our concern to the Russian government, and that conversation is ongoing," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said.

Police broke up an opposition protest in Moscow and detained at least 70 activists Tuesday, while they also detained up to 60 protesters during similar protests in Russia's second city of Saint Petersburg.

The protests were among a series of "Strategy 31" demonstrations organized for the 31st day of the month in reference to Article 31 in the Russian constitution which permits peaceful demonstrations.

"The United States reiterates the importance of embracing and protecting universal values, including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, enshrined in the Russian constitution, as well as in international agreements which Russia has signed," Crowley said.

"We are concerned by actions by the Russian government in recent years, shrinking the space for civil society," Crowley said.

"We have concerns about intimidation of citizens, intimidation of journalists, intimidations of non-governmental operators who are... working on behalf of the Russian people," Crowley said.

© 2010 AFP

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