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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin, Barroso Spar Over Human Rights

APPrime Minister Vladimir Putin listens as European Commission President Jose-Manuel Barroso speaks at a joint press conference in Moscow on Friday.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso traded barbs over human rights Friday following a day of high-level bilateral talks in Moscow.
 
Addressing a joint news conference with a prepared speech, Barosso mentioned that he had raised the issue of rule of law in Russia in a meeting earlier Friday with President Dmitry Medvedev.
 
A visibly irritated Putin responded by saying that Europe should not talk down to Russia and accused the EU of violating the rights of ethnic Russian minorities, immigrants and prisoners.
 
"We are not satisfied how the issue of Russian-speaking populations in the Baltics continues to be solved," Putin said. "We know about the rights of immigrants in European countries and how they are violated. We know about the situation in the penal systems in some European countries, and we have the same kinds of problems.
 
"We believe in the need to discuss the entire spectrum of problems in Russia and in EU countries," Putin said.
 
In an emotional reaction, Barroso said he had informed Medvedev about the "concern" that the recent murders of "some journalists and some human rights activists" have prompted in Europe.
 
He appeared to be referring to the brazen murder of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and Novaya Gazeta journalist Anastasia Baburova, who were shot dead Jan. 19 by an unidentified gunman in central Moscow.
 
Demonstrations have been held in several European cities to commemorate Markelov and Baburova.
 
Barroso went on to give an impassioned speech, saying people were more important that diplomatic protocols and insisting that Europe is open to criticism.
 
"We don't pretend to be perfect," Barroso said. "We accept criticism."
 
When Barroso finished, Putin suggested — first through a translator and then in English — to end the discussion, after which the two proceeded to address the importance of bilateral ties.
 
Barroso's visit along with a team of key EU commissioners was originally planned for last summer but postponed because of Russia's war with Georgia in August.