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Russia5 June 2007

G-8 leaders urged to raise human rights with Putin at Heiligendamm summit

Reporters Without Borders today called on leaders attending the Group of Eight summit in the German resort of Heiligendamm on 6-8 June to raise human rights issues with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Russia faces crucial elections in the coming months and civil society has already begun to feel their impact,” the press freedom organisation said. “The existing, significant harassment of the independent and opposition media is being stepped up. It is fundamental in these circumstances that those who defend civil liberties should be able to count on external support.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “Russia has been a full G-8 member since 2003 and cannot attribute its human rights violations to insufficient economic development. On the contrary, Russia should be setting an example in this regard. If Vladimir Putin is the democrat he claims to be, he should listen attentively to those calling for a free press.”

The summit in the Baltic resort of Heiligendamm is to be attended by the leaders of the world’s eight richest economies together with those of the European Union. Decisions taken at G-8 meetings are not binding but their influence is beyond dispute. After starting to attend the summits as a special guest in 1992, Russia became a full member of the group at the Evian summit in 2003.

In an interview which President Putin gave on 1 June to several foreign correspondents heading to the summit and which was published today, he insisted on his commitment to democracy and said: “The tragedy is that I am the only pure democrat in the world. After the death of Gandhi there is no one to talk to.”

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