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Berlin condemns Russia protest crackdown

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Servicemen of the Russian National Guard detain a participant of an unsanctioned rally urging fair elections in downtown Moscow on August 3, 2019. – The rally is the latest in a series of demonstrations after officials refused to let popular opposition candidates run in next month’s city parliament elections. (Photo by Vasily MAXIMOV / AFP)

Germany on Sunday said a Moscow police crackdown on peaceful protests “violates” Russia’s international obligations and undermines the right to fair elections in the country, a day after hundreds were detained at an opposition rally.

The arrests on Saturday were “out of all proportion to the peaceful nature of the protests against the exclusion of independent candidates” from city elections in Moscow next month, said the German government.

In a statement, Berlin condemned “the repeated interference in the guaranteed right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression” which “violates Russia’s international obligations and strongly questions the right to free and fair elections”.

According to the independent protest monitor OVD-Info, some 828 people were detained during Saturday’s rally in Moscow.

Police say 1,500 people took part after crowds gathered on the city’s central boulevard in a protest “stroll”.

Police officers detain opposition politician, would-be candidate Lyubov Sobol on her way to an unsanctioned rally urging fair elections in downtown Moscow on August 3, 2019. – The rally is the latest in a series of demonstrations after officials refused to let popular opposition candidates run in next month’s city parliament elections. (Photo by Vasily MAXIMOV / AFP)


Authorities also upped the pressure on detained opposition leader Alexei Navalny, a top Kremlin critic, by launching a criminal probe into his anti-graft group on Saturday.

Navalny ally Lyubov Sobol, who is currently three weeks into a hunger strike after being barred from taking part in the election, was dragged from a taxi and detained as she set off for the rally.

Angela Merkel’s government called on Russia to “effectively protect the fundamental rights of its citizens” and demanded “the speedy release of all peaceful demonstrators”.

Sunday’s condemnation from Berlin follows an appeal last Monday calling on Moscow to release 1,400 other protestors detained after a similar demo the previous weekend.


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