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The Russian Foreign Ministry announced the move on April 30. (file photo)

Russia has barred eight officials from European Union countries from entering the country in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Russian citizens by Brussels -- a move to which the bloc said it "reserves the right" to respond.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on April 30 that those banned included European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova, and David Sassoli, the president of the European parliament.

The EU imposed sanctions last month on two Russians accused of persecuting gay and lesbian people in the southern Russian region of Chechnya.

The EU also imposed sanctions on four senior Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin the same month.

Russia once again criticized the bloc's punitive measures and accused it of fomenting anti-Russian "hysteria."

"The EU continues the policy of illegitimate unilateral sanctions against Russian citizens and organizations," the statement said.

"In March 2021, six Russians were subjected to unlawful EU restrictions. This practice contradicts the UN charter and the basic norms of international law. It is accompanied by anti-Russian hysteria, deliberately spread by the Western media," it said.

Berlin's chief state prosecutor Joerg Raupach is also on the list, an apparent tit-for-tat response to the bloc's decision last month to slap entry bans on high-ranking Russian officials for their role in the jailing of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny.

The other five Europeans on the list are Ivars Abolins, the head of Latvia's national council for electronic media; Maris Baltins, the director of Latvia's state language center; Jacques Maire, a member of the French delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE); Asa Scott, the head of the chemical, biological, radiation, and nuclear safety lab at the Swedish Total Defense Research Institute; and Ilmar Tomusk, the chief of the Language Department of Estonia.

The statement says that the actions of the bloc "leave no doubt that their true goal is to restrain the development of our country at any cost."

In response, the EU called the Russian move "unacceptable" and "entirely groundless" and condemned it "in the strongest possible terms" in a statement on April 30.

"This decision is the latest, striking demonstration of how the Russian Federation has chosen confrontation with the EU instead of agreeing to redress the negative trajectory of our bilateral relations," the statement said.

"The EU reserves the right to take appropriate measures in response to the Russian authorities' decision."

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
Uzbek blogger Miraziz Bazarov (file photo)

TASHKENT -- Uzbek blogger and rights activist Miraziz Bazarov, who was severely beaten by unknown attackers in March, has been put under house arrest after being released from the hospital.

Bazarov's lawyer, Sergei Mayorov, told RFE/RL that his client was immediately taken to the Tashkent City Main Directorate of Interior Affairs after he was released from hospital on April 29.

According to Mayorov, Bazarov is under house arrest on charges of libel and public insult. The case against Bazarov was launched last week after teachers at Tashkent school No. 110 filed a lawsuit against him over a video placed by the blogger on the Internet last October.

"In the video, Bazarov says 'school is a place where slaves and losers teach children to become slaves and losers' and that became the basis of the lawsuit," Mayorov said.

Representatives from the school's administration were not available for immediate comment.

The school was renovated by a well-known Russian tycoon of Uzbek origin, Alisher Usmanov. Earlier in April, it was at the center of a scandal after Shahnoza Soatova, an adviser to the justice minister, said that the school administration measured the height of students' socks as part of the "struggle against LGBT ideas."

Uzbek Rights Campaigner And Government Critic Severely Beaten
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Bazarov. 29, was hospitalized in late March after he was severely attacked by unknown men hours after a public event he organized was disrupted by dozens of aggressive men in the Uzbek capital.

Bazarov is known for his criticism of the Uzbek government on his Telegram channel.

Among other issues, Bazarov has also publicly urged the government to decriminalize same-sex sexual conduct, which is still legally considered a crime in Uzbekistan.

Bazarov has openly said he is not an LGBT activist, but believes that being gay is a personal issue and therefore there should be no laws against it.

Bazarov has also criticized President Shavkat Mirziyoev for insufficient anti-corruption efforts, and has questioned the efficiency of ongoing restrictions to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

Last summer, Bazarov was questioned by State Security Service investigators after he called on the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank on Facebook not to provide loans to Uzbekistan without strict control over how the funds are used.

Bazarov had told RFE/RL that he had received many online threats before the attack. He said had informed the police of this, but law enforcement did not take any action.

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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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