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Tatyana Moskalkova at the State Duma on April 22

Russia's lower house of parliament has endorsed Tatyana Moskalkova, a retired senior police officer, as the country’s new presidential human rights ombudswoman.

In a secret ballot at the State Duma on April 22, 323 lawmakers backed Moskalkova’s candidacy, with 11 voting against and one abstaining.

There were five other candidates for the post.

Moskalkova, a police general and lawmaker from the Kremlin-friendly A Just Russia party, took the oath of office after the vote.

She replaces Ella Pamfilova, who was picked as the new head of Russia's Central Election Commission earlier this month.

In a March 30 statement, the opposition Yabloko party, which doesn’t hold seats in parliament, urged lawmakers to reject Moskalkova's candidacy, calling it “a mockery of common sense.”

Based on reporting by TASS, Interfax, and AP

The United States has called on Russia to reverse its decision to suspend the Crimean Tatar Mejlis as an "extremist" organization.

"Russian authorities have no basis or jurisdiction to assert Russian law over Tatar conduct in Ukraine," U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said on April 21.

The Russian Justice Ministry's decision on April 18 prohibits the self-governing Tatar body, which was legalized by Ukraine in 1999, from using state-owned media, holding public gatherings, participating in elections, and using bank accounts for anything other than paying off taxes, debts, or other financial penalties.

"This action is the latest in a series of abuses perpetrated by de facto authorities against those in Crimea who oppose the occupation, including Crimean Tatars and members of other ethnic and religious minorities," Kirby said.

"We again call on Russia to end its occupation of Crimea and return control over this piece of Ukrainian territory. Sanctions related to Crimea will remain in place as long as the occupation continues."

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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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