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Human Rights Group Wants Democracy on EU, Russia Agenda


The International Helsinki Federation says human rights are no longer discussed at EU summits. The head of the IHF told VOA he thinks there is a lack of interest by both the European Union and Moscow to talk about what he calls the serious setback to democracy in Russia. Marlene Smith has more for VOA from Vienna, where the IHF has its headquarters.

The executive director of the International Helsinki Federation, Aaron Rhodes, says the European Union is preoccupied with energy and trade issues at the summit meeting with Russia in Finalnd.

Russia is the biggest energy supplier to the European Union, and the bloc is eager to guarantee supplies during the upcoming winter. Rhodes says there are other urgent issues that should be discussed.

"Over the past months, the Russian government has moved away from the support of institutions that ensure human rights, they have weakened the possibilities for independent media, they have instituted a [Non-Government Organizations] law that allows the state to inappropriately interfere in the workings of civil society organizations that would monitor the state," said Rhodes.

"There are many questions about the independence of the judiciary and the parliament," he continued. "The political rights situation in Russia is such that there is not really any opposition in the Duma."

The rights group said it is also concerned about racism and xenophobia in Russia.

The European Union says there are special, separate meetings with Russia looking at human rights issues. Russia accuses the European Union of double standards, pointing to what it sees as the discrimination against ethnic Russians in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

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