Heidi Hautala: EU should support Russian opposition

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Heidi Hautala, Chairwoman of the European Parliament's Sub-committee on Human Rights, has condemned the sentencing of Russian opposition activists arrested for taking part in a peaceful rally to defend the Russian Constitution on 31 December 2010. Ms Hautala called for the immediate release of all peaceful protesters. Hundreds of people were arrested in Moscow, St Petersburg, and other cities in Russia in connection with the campaign to defend Article 31 of the Russian Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of assembly.

"With the new mayor of Moscow, the authorities seemed to have been finally prepared to show respect for the constitutional right of citizens to peacefully gather and manifest their views. The arrest of hundreds of people on 31 December 2010 shows that this was an unfounded hope. This is a real backlash and we in the European Parliament must keep the pressure on our so-called strategic partner so that it respect the internationally guaranteed rights which every citizen, including Russians, shall enjoy," Ms Hautala said.

"The EU was very quick to react against police violence towards demonstrators in Belarus. I want to remind the EU representatives and colleagues of the need to avoid a potential double standard in the attitude towards the events in Belarus and Russia. The EU must keep condemning police practices in Russia as vigorously as it does in the case of Belarus. It is time that the EU opens contacts with and shows solidarity towards Russia's democratic opposition, just as it does towards the opposition of Belarus," Ms Hautala insisted.

http://www.heidihautala.fi/2011/01/chairwoman-condemns-the-sentencing-of-mr-nemtsov/

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