US President George W. Bush criticized Russian authorities for the way they broke up weekend election demonstrations against President Vladimir Putin.
Bush expressed deep concern Monday over the detention of political leaders, including former international chess champion Garry Kasparov, during the weekend in Moscow, St. Petersburg and two other Russian cities. "The freedoms of expression, assembly and press, as well as due process, are fundamental to any democratic society," the president said in a statement.
"I am particularly troubled by the use of force by law enforcement authorities to stop these peaceful activities and to prevent some journalists and human rights activists from covering them," Bush said. "I am hopeful that the government of Russia will honor its international obligations in these areas, investigate allegations of abuses and free those who remain in detention."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the criticism, saying police had responded properly to "provocations" by protesters who refused to remain in an area where city authorities had permitted them to demonstrate.
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