HRW decries Russian rights crackdown

Dec. 19, 2012 at 11:30 AM

MOSCOW, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Moscow should be warned by the European Union that Russia's crackdown on dissenters is out of step with regional norms, said Human Rights Watch.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is to meet with EU leaders Friday in Brussels. A resolution passed last week by the European Parliament said the relationship with Moscow was deteriorating.

"EU-Russia relations are still suffering from Russia's failure to embrace democratic values fully and strengthen the rule of law," a parliamentary statement read.

Russia has targeted opponents of Putin's government at the same time as frustration with his grip on power increases. The Kremlin has expressed concern about alleged foreign meddling and recently called on the U.S. Agency for International Development to close its Russian offices.

Hugh Williamson, a director of European affairs for Human Rights Watch, said the European Union should send a message of "alarm" to Putin during his visit Friday.

Human Rights Watch said it was concerned by laws in Russia that expand the definition of treason. Rules on the role of nongovernmental organizations passed in July, he said, were problematic.

"The crackdown on civil society is eroding the rule of law in Russia," he said.

Putin in May was elected to a third non-consecutive term in office. Monitoring groups had expressed concern about the election's fairness, however.

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