The European Union is concerned over the arrests of Russian opposition movement leaders during the recent protest rallies in Moscow, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Friday.
“The High Representative is concerned about the arrests of opposition leaders in Moscow and the 15-day prison sentence imposed on some of them on 9 May 2012,” Ashton’s spokesperson said in a statement posted on the EU website. “The freedoms of expression and of assembly, and participation in peaceful demonstrations, are fundamental rights in democratic states and are indeed enshrined in the Russian Constitution.”
Anti-corruption blogger and opposition figurehead Alexei Navalny and leader of Russia’s opposition Left Front movement Sergei Udaltsov were jailed for 15 days on Wednesday for disobeying police orders. Navalny was questioned by police on Thursday morning in connection with the May 6 riots.
“The High Representative calls on Russia to respect these rights, also in light of Russia’s international commitments taken as a member of the Council of Europe and the OSCE. She encourages Russian authorities to further develop democratic institutions in a constructive dialogue with civil society and its representatives,” the statement concluded.
Over 400 people were detained as a Moscow protest rally turned violent on the eve of Vladimir Putin’s May 7 presidential inauguration. Some thirty police officers and an unconfirmed number of demonstrators were also injured in the most serious violence since the start of the previously largely peaceful protests against Putin last winter.