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Public Chamber decries U.S. human rights report on Russia

MOSCOW, March 7 (RIA Novosti) - Members of the Public Chamber have slammed the U.S. State Department's annual country report on human rights practices that sharply criticizes Russia, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported Wednesday.

The report said, among other things, that the Russian Federation has a weak, multiparty political system and a poor human rights record, specifically in the continuing internal conflict in and around Chechnya. In addition, it said prison conditions are strict and often life-threatening, with corruption in law enforcement, arbitrary arrests and detention, declining media freedom, and harassment of NGOs.

Sergei Markov, a political scientist, described the report as biased.

"A report that describes Latvia and Estonia as democratic countries is, without a doubt, prejudiced with respect to Russia," Markov said.

Valery Tishkov, who is also a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said the report is "provocative."

"The Department of State as a government structure has no right to comment or pass judgment on the human rights situation in other countries. This should be done by international public organizations," he said.

Anatoly Kucherena, a lawyer, said the report was ideologically motivated.

"We are not saying that Russia has a spotless human rights record. We are working on it. But this does not mean that these isolated ['individual'] problems should be blown out of proportion and used in a massive ideological attack against Russia," he said, adding that pushing and squeezing Russia will not make it more democratic.

The report also pointed to some positive developments with regard to human rights.

It said reforms initiated in previous years continued to produce improvements in the criminal justice system. Authorities sought to combat instances of racial and ethnic mistreatment through prosecutions of groups and individuals accused of engaging in this behavior.