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Council of Europe Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland has announced he is sending a delegation to Crimea to assess the human rights situation on the peninsula.

"More than 2.5 million people live in Crimea, they are all covered by the European Convention on Human Rights and should be able to benefit from it," Jagland said in a statement on January 25.

"However, for more than a year, no delegation from an international organization has been able to go there."

"The mission will be conducted with full independence and will not deal with any issue related to the territorial status of Crimea," Jagland stressed.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 after a referendum dismissed in the West as bogus.

Since Russia's land grab, fundamental freedoms have "deteriorated radically" for many in Crimea, especially for pro-Ukrainian activists, journalists, and the Crimean Tatar community.

That was the finding of a report issued in September 2015 by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities.

Municipal authorities in Moscow have rejected an application by the liberal Yabloko party to hold a public demonstration to call for the removal of Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov.

The party made the announcement on its website on January 22, saying that instead it will hold rotating one-person pickets outside the Russian presidential administration building beginning at noon on January 26.

"Our picket will demand from Kadyrov an apology and from [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, Kadyrov's dismissal," Yabloko leader Sergei Mitrokhin was quoted as saying.

Public demonstrations of more than one person in Russia must be approved in advance by the authorities.

The controversial Chechen leader, who has been widely accused of massive human rights abuses and corruption, made headlines earlier this month when he called all those who oppose Putin "traitors" and "enemies of the people."

Those comments provoked calls for Kadyrov's resignation. In response, authorities in Chechnya on January 22 held a massive rally during which hundreds of thousands of people expressed support for Kadyrov and underscored his attacks on Russian liberals and anti-Putin activists.

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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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