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Leaders spar over rights issues after EU-Russia meeting

[JURIST] European Commission [official website] President Jose Manuel Barroso [official profile] noticeably irritated Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin [official website] at a joint news conference [transcript] held in Moscow Friday when Barroso commented on apparent human rights violations in Russia [AP report]. Barroso's comments on talks that had taken place earlier with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official website] about the rule of law in Russia upset Putin, who responded by accusing European countries of human rights violations in regards to prisoners and immigrants. Barroso in return noted recent rights violations in Russia, particularly the murders of journalists and human rights activists [JURIST report]. Putin attempted to end the discussion at that point. The news conference had been held after a meeting [press release] between European Commission members and Russia intended to increase ties and discuss issues such as energy security and the global economic crisis.

Despite an energy supply crisis [RFE report] which ended last month, human rights issues remain a primary point of contention between the EU and Russia. In October last year, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] issued two decisions [JURIST report] finding Russia in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights [text] in several cases concerning the deaths or abductions of Russian nationals in Chechnya in 2000. In May, the court ruled [JURIST report] that Russia was responsible for the disappearance of a dozen people during Russian armed raids in Chechnya in 2002 and 2003. In July 2007, the court ruled that Russian authorities were responsible for the shooting deaths of 11 unarmed Chechen civilians, and in June 2007 it held that Russian authorities were liable for the 2003 deaths of four Chechen family members [JURIST reports].

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