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Russia: Human Rights Envoy Says Abuses Widespread

Moscow, 26 March 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Russia's chief envoy for human rights says Russian citizens face widespread violations of their rights and freedoms. In an interview published in the "Nezavisimaya gazeta" newspaper, the Kremlin's rights official, Oleg Mironov, spoke out against encroachment on freedom of the press, violence against civilians in Chechnya, and economic hardships suffered by many Russians. He said that some 40 percent of citizens live in poverty, and are therefore denied the right to a dignified life.

Also today, defense lawyers in two espionage cases spoke out against what they called efforts to stifle freedom of expression.

The lawyers represent two ex-military officers, Alexander Nikitin and Grigorii Pasko, who have been imprisoned for divulging state secrets. The defenders said that Russia's Defense Ministry and Federal Security Service (FSB) have distorted decrees meant to protect state secrets, and used them to crack down on free speech.