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European rights advocate asks Russia to explain police action over protests

A European human rights advocacy group, the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, has called on Russia to explain reports of abuse and use of excessive force by Russian law enforcement to disperse anti-Kremlin protests sparked by the arrest of Alexei Navalny, a key opposition leader. The agency reminded Moscow that, in Russia, citizens maintain the right to freedom of assembly. More than 11,000 were detained during the protests over recent weeks.

The number of detainees was unprecedented, according to non-governmental group (NGO) OVD-Info, which monitors arrests during mass protests. The Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner addressed a letter to the Russian Interior Minister, publishing it on Thursday. The letter expresses dismay over reports and video footage of police beatings, including violence against dozens of journalists. Detainees also complained about a lack of access to sanitary facilities, food, water, and sleeping places. Many of those detained were also denied medical and legal assistance.

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