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Russia rights activists detained in anti-Kremlin protests

[JURIST] As many as 100 anti-Kremlin demonstrators were arrested by Moscow authorities Sunday as they protested against the perceived government curtailing of the right to peaceful assembly. The 300-strong group chanted [BBC report] slogans calling for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian; JURIST news archive] to step aside. Among those detained were Boris Nemtsov [advocacy website, in Russian; BBC profile], a former deputy prime minister and the leader of the opposition group Solidarity [advocacy website, in Russian], and Oleg Orlov [JURIST news archive], the head of rights group Memorial [advocacy website]. Protests have been held on the thirty-first of every month by rights activists defending the Article 31 of the Russian Constitution [text], which outlines the right to peaceably protest. Applications to hold the rallies have often been rejected. The day before, a state-sanctioned demonstration in Kaliningrad protesting the rise in the cost of living grew [Reuters report] into a 10,000-strong opposition protest, chanting anti-Putin slogans and demonstrating against the economic conditions of the Baltic enclave.

The actions of the Russian government in breaking up similar protests in December earned criticism from US President Barack Obama after the founder of Russia's oldest rights group, the Moscow Helsinki Group [advocacy website], 82-year-old Lyudmila Alexeyeva was arrested. In December, human rights activist Sergei Kovalev called [JURIST report] on the European Union [official website] to hold Russia accountable for human rights violations in a speech after receiving the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought [official website]. Kovalev, joined by Orlov and Alexeyeva, accepted the award on behalf of Memorial. In October, a report by the UN Human Rights Committee [official website] found [JURIST report] that Russia is failing to protect important human rights in a number of areas, including freedom of expression.

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