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Russia: Parliament Accuses U.S. Of Election Meddling

Demonstrators mark human rights day in Moscow in December, 2006 (ITAR-TASS) April 13, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Russian lawmakers have decried as "unacceptable" the recent negative assessments of Russian human rights standards in a U.S. State Department report detailing U.S. aid efforts in 2006.

Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, passed today a resolution rejecting the U.S. report titled "Supporting Human Rights And Democracy: The U.S. Record."

Lawmakers in the State Duma, parliament's lower house, have approved a similar resolution.

Proposed Emergency Measures

Deputies proposed that the Foreign Ministry take "emergency measures" to protect Russian sovereignty.

'We believe that the U.S. a veiled attempt to put pressure on Russia ahead of elections.'

"Our declaration is an appeal to the United States to assess adequately the development of Russia's political life today," the chairman of the Defense and Security Committee of the Federation Council, Viktor Ozerov, said after the upper house had passed the resolution.

The United States "should itself make an analysis of its own record on human rights and principles of democracy," he added.

The chairman of the Duma's Security Committee, Vladimir Vasilyev, told journalists the report targets countries that don't follow the course of U.S. foreign policy.

"The [State Department] report is politicized and it doesn't reflect the real state of affairs. Unfortunately, in those countries that follow the U.S. foreign-policy course, the human rights situation is given a rather positive assessment, while those countries that are not in step [with the United States] are subject to criticism," Vasilyev said.

'Weak Multiparty System'

The State Department's report, which was issued on April 5, does not call Russia a democracy. Instead, it says the country has a "weak multiparty political system with a strong presidency."

It criticized what it describes as Russia's "onerous NGO registration processes" and says that civil society has been further eroded.

The report also details the United States's human rights and democracy strategy. It says the United States continues to promote free and fair elections, provide "programmatic and technical support" to election watchdogs, and training for political parties.

With parliamentary elections in December 2007, and a presidential election in early 2008, that's what Russia seems to be objecting to the most.

The chairman of the Duma's Committee for Public and Religious Organizations, Sergei Popov, said he viewed the report as U.S. pressure. "We believe that the U.S. position, concealed as an effort to promote international standards of human rights and democratic principles, is a veiled attempt to put pressure on Russia ahead of elections," he said.

Earlier Reports

A U.S. State Department human rights report for 2006, released on March 6, also painted a dismal picture of rights in Russia. It highlighted rights abuses in Chechnya and elsewhere in the North Caucasus. It also documented corruption, political pressure on the judiciary, and restrictions on NGOs and the media.

A Freedom House report issued in January, which gave Russia poor marks for human rights and civil liberties, received a barrage of criticism in the Russian media.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the Freedom House report was "absurd."

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