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The EU has called on Russia to release demonstrators arrested at anti-corruption rallies over the weekend as opposition leader Alexei Navalny appeared in court after the biggest show of defiance against president Vladimir Putin for years.

Human rights groups have said about 1,000 people were detained as demonstrators took to the streets across Russia in protests led by Mr Navalny, who wants to contest the 2018 presidential election against Mr Putin.

In a statement on Monday, the EU’s diplomatic service highlighted Mr Navalny’s case as it accused Russian authorities of violating basic freedoms.

“Police operations in the Russian Federation today, attempting to disperse demonstrations and detaining hundreds of citizens, including opposition leader Alexey Navalny, prevented the exercise of basic freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly – which are fundamental rights enshrined in the Russian constitution,” the European External Action Service said.

“We call on the Russian authorities to abide fully by the international commitments it has made, including in the Council of Europe and the OSCE, to uphold these rights, and to release without delay the peaceful demonstrators that have been detained.”

The Council of Europe, the guardian of the European convention on human rights also called for the release of all those detained.

Secretary general Thorbjørn Jagland said:

The detention of hundreds of citizens, including opposition leader Alexey Navalny while exercising their right to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly raises issues under the European Convention on Human Rights. I am particularly concerned about the reported detention of minors. I call for the release of all those detained.

The Council of Europe stands ready to work with the Russian authorities to prevent such situations by upholding the European Convention on Human Rights.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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