U.S. concerned by detention of Article 31 rally participants in Russia

U.S. concerned by detention of Article 31 rally participants in Russia
# 03 August 2010 22:02 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. The United States is concerned by the detention of participants in public rallies demanding freedom of assembly across Russia, a National Security Council spokesman said on Tuesday, APA reports quoting RIA Novosti.
At least 135 opposition protesters who took part in rallies on Saturday in Moscow and St. Petersburg were detained.
Mike Hammer said the United States "reiterates the importance of embracing and protecting universal values, including freedoms of expression and assembly, enshrined in the Russian Constitution," specifically Article 31, as well as in international agreements which Russia has signed.
Police grabbed Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister, and Sergei Udaltsov, leader of the Leftist Front opposition group. Both were later released.
"The infringement of Russian citizens’ rights to exercise these freedoms runs counter to our shared commitments to international norms and common interests in fostering modernization," Hammer said.
"The United States remains committed to supporting those in Russia and around the world who are working to protect and advance the human rights and democratic values of their fellow citizens."
An estimated 200 protesters turned out for the rally in downtown Moscow with 75 hauled away in police vehicles. Some 300 reporters were on hand to cover the event. The protest rally in Russia’s second largest city, St. Petersburg, was attended by 100 people, 60 of whom were detained by police.
Russia’s opposition groups went ahead with the rally in defiance of a city government ban.
In mid-July, city officials authorized a bike festival on Triumfalnaya Square from July 30 through August 1 in what many saw as a deliberate move to foil the opposition’s plans.
Moscow city authorities have regularly turned down requests from Russian opposition groups to stage March of Dissent rallies.
Nearly 200 opposition protesters were detained during a rally on May 31.
The crackdown caused public outrage as riot police outnumbered demonstrators and people with disabilities as well as a World War II veteran were reportedly among those detained.
Opposition groups hold Marches of Dissent on the last day of each month with 31 days in defense of their right to freedom of assembly, as enshrined in Article 31 of the Russian Constitution.