The European Union has told the Russian government that peaceful assembly is a fundamental right, and warned that strong measures to curtail this right are likely to prove counter-productive.
In a statement on Tuesday, as anti-government protesters began demonstrations in the Russian capital demanding fresh elections and a new President, EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton expressed concern about the steps taken recently in Russia to limit the scope for public rallies.
She called on the Russian government to engage with European institutions to ensure that the new law on public rallies meets European standards, as is the expressed intention of President Putin.
She recalled that legislation governing public rallies should "first and foremost guarantee freedom of assembly."
In this context, she is particularly concerned about attempts to intimidate protest leaders and prevent them from participating in Tuesday's demonstration, the statement added.
Ashton urged the Russian government and civil society to "engage in a constructive dialogue on promotion of democratic standards and future reforms."
The Opposition is holding on Tuesday a new 'March of Millions' in downtown Moscow to protest the rule of President Vladimir Putin.
Opposition leaders who organized the mass rally were called in for police questioning one hour prior to the demonstration, which the United States says is "clearly designed to take them off the streets during the demonstration."
The Russian police have been searching the homes of Opposition leaders and arresting several others in connection with the demonstration in Moscow's Bolotnaya Square last month that ended in violent clashes between protesters and police. To give legal validity for these actions, the Russian Parliament recently passed a new law that imposes disproportionate penalties for violations of rules concerning public demonstrations.
by RTT Staff Writer
For comments and feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org