Friday, March 9, 2007

Russia Chides U.S. Over Rights Report

Russia Chides U.S. Over Rights Report
March 9 Associated Press

A State Department report that said Russia's human rights record has deteriorated in the past year was criticized by the government on Friday as skewed, confrontational and aimed at furthering American political interests.

The annual report said that as President Vladimir Putin's government has centralized power, it has restricted free speech and that its armed forces killed and abused civilians in and around Chechnya.

In a bitter statement that reflected persistent strains between the Cold War foes, the Foreign Ministry accused Washington of double standards, and suggested the United States was preaching to the world while violating the rights of its own citizens and others across the globe.

The report is 'nonobjective, politicized and in many ways confrontational,' the statement said, claiming that it aims to lead a reader to 'draw concrete negative conclusions' about Russia and contains 'skewed perceptions of the real situation, outdated information, intentional vagueness and citations of biased sources.'

The statement did not mention any specific information in the State Department report, which was released earlier this week.

Russia also was criticized for what the report said were less-than-thorough probes of suspected contract killings of government opponents, including reform-minded officials and journalists.

Moscow tends to criticize the State Department report every year, reflecting irritation about what is widely seen here as U.S. meddling - a sense of resentment produced in part by the large volume of advice given by the United States to a struggling Russia after the 1991 Soviet collapse.

The ministry said Russia has complained to the State Department in the past over 'the politicized evaluation of the human rights situation in Russia, which has been repeated year after year,' but that 'it seems a persistent practice of not taking that into account has developed in Washington.'

Oil-fueled economic growth has made Russia more assertive, while the global anger over the war in Iraq and other U.S. moves by the Bush administration have emboldened the country to sharpen its criticism of Washington.

Ties between the two countries have been further strained in recent weeks by U.S. plans to place missile defense facilities in former Soviet satellite states in Europe.

Putin told a security conference in Germany last month that the United States 'has overstepped its national borders in every way,' and accused it of fomenting a global arms race.

The ministry said Russia had expected the report to be prejudiced.

'Washington has long practiced double standards in the sphere of human rights, depending on whether one state or another acts in accordance with (U.S.) political interests,' the statement said. 'These standards are particularly clearly visible against the background of what is happening now in Iraq, Afghanistan and at the military base in Guantanamo with the participation of the U.S. armed forces.'

At home, the statement said, 'the United States under various pretexts limits democratic freedoms, interferes in the personal lives of its own people, effectively carries out censorship of the media and sends minors to the electric chair.'

It said the U.S. report was based partially on 'tendentiously conveyed' information from a reports by Russia's human rights ombudsman, saying: 'By the way, unlike in Russia, in the United States such official reports - on the human rights situation in its own country - are not produced.'