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Oleg Shein
A Russian opposition politician who has been on a hunger strike for 39 days to protest alleged vote rigging in a mayoral election says he will end his protest fast on April 24.

Oleg Shein, a candidate in the March 4 election in the city of Astrakhan, said, "the hunger strike has achieved its goals."

Official results show Shein finished second in an mayoral election that was won by a candidate from President-elect Vladimir Putin's ruling United Russia party.

Shein and his supporters launched a hunger strike on March 16 against what they called vote-count irregularities.

Putin earlier this month asked why Shein was on a hunger strike instead of challenging the official results in court, prompting lawmakers from Shein's A Just Russia party to walk out of parliament.

At least 16 civilians were killed in the unrest in Zhanaozen.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) is calling for the suspension of the trial in Kazakhstan of 37 people accused of involvement in the deadly disturbances in a western Kazakh oil town last year.

In a statement, the New York-based watchdog said that many defendants claim they were subjected to physical abuse while in detention.

The unrest in Zhanaozen in mid-December came after a seven-month occupation of the main square by oil workers demanding increased salaries.

A confrontation between the demonstrators and police ended with violence in which at least 16 civilians were killed.

Authorities say the disturbances were organized by people seeking to sow instability in the authoritarian-ruled Central Asian country.

HRW says it has evidence that defendants were beaten and pressured into giving statements incriminating themselves and others.

With reporting by AP

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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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