MOSCOW - German Chancellor Angela Merkel will complain to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday about a crackdown on political freedoms in Russia at talks likely to deepen a chill between the two big European powers.

Merkel has been asked by the German parliament to express concern about the state of human rights in Russia since the former KGB spy returned to the presidency for a six-year third term in May.

Putin's spokesman hit back on Thursday by denouncing a rise in "anti-Russian rhetoric" in Germany and signalled that the Kremlin leader would stand his ground if Merkel tried to lecture him on democracy and human rights.

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