U.S. Report Met With Bitterness in Moscow

Year after year, the United States issues a troubling assessment of human rights in Russia.

Year after year, Russia lashes back, accusing the U.S. State Department's annual report on human rights practices around the world of twisting reality and protesting that Washington has no right to preach.

With relations at what could be a post-Cold War low, it is no different this time around.

In a sometimes bitter, sometimes sarcastic statement Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry said the portrayal in the 2007 report was prejudiced, mistaken, poorly sourced and counterproductive.

The ministry said the report reflected the "double standards" of a country that, it claimed, used human rights as a "foreign policy tool," while balking at scrutiny of its own actions.

"How else can one explain why the United States -- which has essentially legalized torture, applies capital punishment to minors, denies responsibility for war crimes and massive human rights violations in Iraq and Afghanistan, refuses to join a series of treaties in the sphere of human rights -- distortedly comments on the situation in other countries?" it said.

"The United States uses the struggle to spread democracy and the defense of human rights as a cover, with no regard to systemic problems within its own country," it said.

The U.S. report, released Tuesday, said the centralization of power in President Vladimir Putin's Kremlin, corruption, selective law enforcement and onerous restrictions on aid groups and the media "continued to erode the government's accountability to its citizens" in Russia. It also noted human rights abuses in war-scarred Chechnya.

The Foreign Ministry said "the State Department's latest opus" contained a "hackneyed collection of claims" about human rights in Russia.

"The document, unfortunately, abounds in groundless accusations, citations of unverified and deliberately biased sources, mistakes and juggling of facts," the statement said. It did not offer specifics.

It said that "many passages were copied from previous reports: One gets the impression that the State Department just selected material to fit conclusions that were formed in advance."

Russia took issue with the report's reference to problematic elections and to criticism by a leading international observer group of its December parliamentary vote. It accused the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's vote-monitoring body of "politicized approaches" and the United States of resisting reform.