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Russian Public Figures Appeal To West Over Human Rights

MOSCOW. Nov 16 (Interfax) - A group of Russian public figures has appealed to Western leaders to pay greater attention to democratic issues and human rights in Russia and recognize Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky as a political prisoner.

"We, representatives of Russian human rights organizations, scholars, people of culture and politicians, note with concern that ongoing political processes in Russia clearly indicate that there is an actual threat of massive campaigns against people whose views differ from the official position, a return of arbitrariness and suppression of human rights," the group said in its address, which was posted on the Moscow Helsinki Group's website on Wednesday.

"We call on the leadership of the European Union, authoritative international organizations and the human rights community to openly and unambiguously demand that the Russian Federation strictly adhere to its human rights and humanitarian obligations, including the Helsinki Declaration," the document reads.

"The main motive behind the criminal prosecution of (former Yukos CEO Mikhail) Khodorkovsky and (his business partner Platon) Lebedev was their vigorous public support for opposition political forces and institutions of civil society," it reads.

The authors of the address call on Western leaders to "help recognize Valentin Danilov, Mikhail Trepashkin, Zara Murtazaliyeva, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev as political prisoners."

Copies of the address have been sent to the leaders of Austria, Belgium, Great Britain, Germany, Denmark, Poland, Spain, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, the United States, Finland, France, the Czech Republic, and Sweden.

The document was signed by 23 people, among them Russian State University of Humanities president Yury Afanasyev, Moscow Helsinki Group head Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Human Rights Institute head Valentin Gefter, Nobel prize winner and Russian Academy of Sciences member Vitaly Ginzburg, United Civil Front leader Garri Kasparov, Republican Party chairman Vladimir Ryzhkov, and Openness Foundation head Alexei Simonov.

Ryzhkov, Alexeyeva and human rights campaigner Valery Borshchyov confirmed on Wednesday that they had signed the document.