US: Russians `heavy-handed' against protesters

The United States decried "Russian government heavy-handedness" against people trying to exercise democratic rights, the latest US attack on Russia's rights record. State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said the Russian move against protesters Saturday in Nizhny Novgorod "raises serious concerns about Russians' ability to exercise their rights to assembly, free speech and peaceful protest." Authorities in the central Russian city said the protesters rallied without official permission in a downtown square rather than far from the city center as they were told. Hundreds of riot police in full gear cordoned off the central square, and an Associated Press photographer said dozens of demonstrators were taken into custody, some beaten with truncheons.