Russia Says U.S. Uses Human Rights as a Foreign Policy Tool

(Bloomberg) - Russia said the U.S. State Department's ``latest opus'' on human rights reflects the double standards of a country that uses the issue as a foreign policy tool while failing to examine its own actions.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement it rejects criticism of Russia's human rights record from a country that ``has in effect legalized torture, uses capital punishment on minors and denies responsibility for war crimes and human rights violations in Iraq and Afghanistan.''

The U.S. report, published two days ago, said President Vladimir Putin's centralization of power in the Kremlin, selective law enforcement and restrictions on aid groups and the media have eroded government accountability. The Foreign Ministry called it ``a hackneyed set of claims.''

Ties between the U.S. and Russia have been strained over the past year by the possible further expansion of NATO into former Soviet republics, American plans to set up missile shield sites in Poland and the Czech Republic and President George W. Bush's support for Kosovo's independence.

The government in Moscow says the moves are part of an effort to isolate Russia and says the U.S. has violated international law when it suits American interests.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates will travel to Moscow next week for talks on missile defense, non-proliferation and counter-terrorism, the White House said yesterday.

Popular Uprisings

Russia has accused the U.S. of sponsoring popular uprisings against flawed elections in the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine to install pro-American leaders. Both countries want to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

``The U.S. uses the struggle to spread democracy and the defense of human rights as a cover'' to advance its interests, the ministry said in the statement issued late yesterday.

Putin, in a May 9, 2007, speech in Red Square marking the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, suggested U.S. foreign policy resembled that of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich.

The president has warned western countries not to interfere in Russia's affairs and demanded it be treated as an equal. The Foreign Ministry echoed that sentiment, criticizing what it called the ``mentorish tone'' of the State Department report.

The ministry said the report was prejudiced, mistaken, poorly sourced and counterproductive.

``Many passages are copied from previous reports; the impression is that the State Department simply collected facts to suit the conclusions formulated in advance,'' it said.

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