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Rights Group Denounces Russian Pre-Election Rights Clampdown

A leading human rights group has denounced what it says is a Russian crackdown on freedoms of assembly and expression ahead of Sunday's presidential election.

London-based Amnesty International, in a report, cites recent instances of police using force to break up anti-Kremlin demonstrations. It also criticizes new Russian laws restricting activities of non-governmental organizations.

The report released Tuesday, says the crackdown was particularly visible ahead of parliamentary elections in December, and remains so in the run-up to Sunday's poll.

Russians will vote in a presidential election that President Vladimir Putin's anointed successor, Dimitri Medvedev, is expected to win easily.

Medvedev's chief opponent, former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, was barred last month from running as an independent candidate. Authorities said he failed to gain enough valid signatures to qualify.

The Amnesty report also voices concern that the investigation into the 2006 murder of independent journalist and Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya has stalled. Politkovskaya, who reported extensively on Russian human rights violations in Chechnya, was shot and killed outside her Moscow apartment.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.