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The European Parliament building in Strasbourg
BRUSSELS -- EU lawmakers have adopted a resolution in which they "strongly criticize the shortcomings and irregularities in the preparation and conduct" of the Russian presidential election earlier this month.

The resolution, adopted by all major political groups in the European Parliament on March 15, says the voters’ choice was "limited" and calls for "a comprehensive and transparent analysis of all irregularities with a view to strengthening democratic rules for future elections."

The text is also calling on the Russian authorities and political parties represented in the State Duma "to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the pro-democracy protestors and opposition."

It also encourages President-elect Vladimir Putin to "tone down his rhetoric against the protestors and engage with them in a sincere dialogue on the future of the country."

Deep Concern Over Kazakhstan

Another resolution adopted by EU lawmakers on March 15 expresses deep concern about events in the Zhanaozen district of Kazakhstan last December in which at least 16 people were shot dead by police.

The text condemns the violent crackdown by police against protesters demonstrating against unpaid money for oil workers and calls for an independent investigation into the events with an international component.

The resolution also calls on Kazakh authorities to provide assurances regarding the safety of the families of arrested activists.

It says the EU's diplomatic corps, the External Action Service, should monitor the trial of those accused of organizing the demonstrations.

The lawmakers also said that negotiations on an updated agreement spelling out closer economic ties between the EU and Kazakhstan "must depend on progress of political reform."
Lidziya Kavalenka, the mother of Belarusian prisoner Syarhey Kavalenka
MINSK -- The mother of jailed Belarusian activist Syarhey Kavalenka has warned that her jailed son, who is on hunger strike, could die at any moment.

Kavalenka, 37, was sentenced in February to 25 months in jail for violating parole.

He was detained in December for allegedly breaching the terms of his parole on an earlier conviction for "illegally displaying the banned Belarusian national flag."

Kavalenka has been holding a hunger strike since the day of his arrest.

Prison authorities forcibly fed him in January, but he resumed his hunger strike last month. His mother, Lidziya Kavalenka, was allowed to visit him in a prison hospital in Minsk on March 14.

She told RFE/RL after the 90-minute visit that Kavalenka now weighs some 50 kilograms and is not able to see properly.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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