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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rights Boss Urges Protection

Russia paid tribute to victims of political repression Monday as the country's human rights chief called for more action in recognising and protecting people's rights.

A small crowd, joined by Russia's Human Rights Commissioner Oleg Mironov, gathered in central Moscow to lay red and white flowers on a monument created in memory of those who suffered political repression.

"I hope that such a time will come when on (this occasion) every year the president of our country will stand before the population and talk about the problems of human rights and about how to protect them," Mironov told journalists.

Mironov, a former Communist lawmaker, laid several red roses on the monument -- a large rock mounted on a marble plinth -- and then stood for a few moments with his eyes closed and head bowed in front of it.

He also chatted to some of the 40-odd people gathered at the monument.

The memorial rock stands on the site of what was once a monument to Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Soviet Union's feared secret police. Behind the monument looms Lubyanka -- the headquarters of the former KGB.

Dzerzhinsky's statue was toppled by jubilant crowds in 1991 after a failed coup by Communist hardliners, a move considered a watershed in the dismantling of 70 years of totalitarian Soviet rule.

Leftist factions in the State Duma lower house of parliament are pushing for the statue to be returned to its original site.

Dzerzhinsky founded the Bolshevik "Cheka" police, which ruthlessly eliminated political opponents and established a tradition of repression leading ultimately to the KGB and its network of labour camps in which million died.

President Vladimir Putin has recently given the go-ahead for deeper probes into Stalin-era political repression.

Alexander Yakovlev, head of the investigating commission, has said Russia might soon officially acknowledge that Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who used his connections to save thousands of Jews during World War Two, died in the Gulag camps.

"Our task now is to help people," Mironov said.

"Unfortunately in Russia there are millions and millions of deprived people".