Amnesty International protests clampdown on freedoms in Russia

.MOSCOW (AP) – The Kremlin has clamped down on freedoms in the run-up to Russia’s presidential election, an international rights group said Tuesday.

Amnesty International released a report ahead of Sunday’s vote in which it said Russia had curtailed the rights of freedom of expression, association and assembly in recent years.

“Human rights defenders, independent civil society organizations, political opponents and ordinary citizens have all been victims of this rollback on civil and political rights,” the report said.

The London-based group said the decline has been seen in authorities’ breaking up of opposition demonstrations, harassment of rights activists and journalists, and restrictions imposed on civil society groups.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment on the report.

First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is expected to easily win Sunday’s election against three token opponents.

President Vladimir Putin has been widely criticized by opponents at home and abroad for rolling back post-Soviet freedoms during his eight-year tenure. He has angrily dismissed the criticism and accused the West of trying to weaken Russia.