Rice pledges support to Russian activists
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Russian human rights activists on Saturday she wanted to help them build institutions to protect people from the 'arbitrary power of the state'.
"I think that there is too much concentration of power in the Kremlin," she later told reporters.
Her remarks and the meeting with eight human rights leaders could irk the Kremlin, which is sensitive to Western accusations it is rolling back democratic freedoms and suspects foreign governments of trying to influence next year's presidential election.
Rice told the rights activists she wanted to hear about their efforts to protect freedoms in Russia.
"I am quite confident that your goal is to build institutions that are indigenous to Russia -- that are Russian institutions -- but that are also respectful of what we all know to be universal values," said Rice.
She said these were: "The rights of individuals to liberty and freedom, the right to worship as you please, and the right to assembly, the right to not have to deal with the arbitrary power of the state."
"How is it going and what can we do to help Russia to build strong institutions that have these universal values?"
The United States and other Western governments are concerned about democracy, human rights and civil society in Russia under President Vladimir Putin. ( Reuters )