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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Human Rights Activists Ask Leaders to Press Putin at G8

A group of Russian human rights activists are appealing to Western governments to confront President Vladimir Putin at the Group of Eight summit in Germany.

An open letter signed by 25 activists Tuesday complains of widespread violations of human rights and democratic freedoms in Russia.

The document, conceived by Lev Ponomaryov and posted on his For Human Rights web site, calls on the leaders of Germany, Italy, France, Britain, Canada, Japan and the United States to press Putin over those issues.

"The practice of realpolitik must end when the toleration of Russia's anti-democratic course is causing a turnaround on political and economic questions," it says.

The signatories -- including Sergei Kovalyov and Yelena Bonner, the widow of Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov -- also call for the release of "political prisoners" such as Boris Stomakhin, editor of the Moscow-based monthly Radikalnaya Politika who was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of inciting ethnic hatred in reports about the Chechen conflict.

The letter, however, was not embraced by all Russian human rights groups. Oleg Orlov, head of Memorial, said he welcomed the letter in principle but had not signed it because he disagreed with its tone.

A spokesman for the German government, reached by telephone in Berlin, said he was not aware of the letter but added that it was difficult to keep track of all open letters, especially in the run up to the G8 summit.

Meanwhile, former Kremlin correspondent Yelena Tregubova, who has applied for asylum in Britain, accused G8 leaders of being too soft on Putin for too long. "You have started to protest now that you have suddenly realized that it will not be too easy to get off the oil and gas hook Putin forced you to swallow," she wrote in an open letter published Tuesday by London newspaper The Independent. Tregubova wrote a 2003 book critical of Putin called "Tales of a Kremlin Digger" and escaped injury when a small bomb went off outside her apartment in February 2004.