An international human rights group has called on Russian authorities to protect the right to peaceful assembly, criticizing Moscow for detaining peaceful protesters and not holding accountable those responsible for any violations.
U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said Tuesday more than 130 protesters were detained Saturday and Sunday at three separate demonstrations in the capital, Moscow.
The rights group says the gatherings were all peaceful, adding that the activists "did nothing to provoke police or necessitate police interference."
The report says some of those arrested were released within hours, pending hearings, while others were given sentences of up to 10 days in prison.
HRW's Acting Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia, Jane Buchanan, said the Russian government needs to guarantee the right to free assembly to all of its citizens and allow the full expression of that, placing limits only in instances where there is a public threat.
Human Rights Watch reiterates that according to the European Court of Human Rights, unauthorized peaceful protests do not justify restricting the right to freedom of assembly.
A spokesperson for the Russian Embassy in Washington was not available for comment.
In recent months, thousands of people have taken part in both authorized and unauthorized demonstrations across Russia to protest a range of issues, including parliamentary and presidential elections, corruption and the detention of political prisoners.
Vladimir Putin, who has been prime minister since relinquishing the presidency in 2008, won the country's March 4 presidential election by a landslide. He will be sworn in for a third term as president on May 7. The opposition disputes Putin's victory, calling it a stolen election.
World leaders acknowledged Putin's victory with reservations. International observers say the election was clearly skewed in Putin's favor.