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MOSCOW, May 29 (Itar-Tass) - Russian ombudsman Vladimir Lukin lashed out regional authorities for violation of rights to freedom of conscience and the attempts to strip ombudspersons of independence.
"There's been an increasing number of complaints from citizens who faced administrative responsibility for so-called imposition of religious views," he said as he was presenting his annual report at the Federation Council upper house of the Russian parliament on Wednesday.
While violating citizens' right to freedom of conscience, "the authorities were supported by provisions of regional codes of administrative offenses, which envision punishment for certain "pestering" related to religious propaganda or religious beliefs."
These provisions contradict the Constitution which says citizens have the right to freely disseminate their religious and other convictions, and that citizens' rights can only be limited by federal law.
"With prosecutors' support, it was possible to take out the above norms from the legislation of ten Russian regions, and similar bills are in the works in another three provinces. Anti-constitutional norms had been effective in the Amur, Belgorod and Omsk regions and the republic of Bashkortostan until recently," the ombudsman said.
Lukin also drew the FC members attention to the insufficient number of regional ombudspersons. "Ombudsman's offices operate in 76 regions, but seven provinces /the republic of Tyva, the Novosibirsk, Tambov, Vladimir, Kurgan and Magadan regions, and the Chukot Autonomous Area have no ombudspersons of their own," he reminded.
"I believe it is wrong; citizens' rights should be defended equally in all regions of the country.
"Some regions pass the amendments enabling local legislators to relieve ombudspersons of their duties on the strength of biased evaluation of their performance," Lukin said urging the Federation Council not to allow the violation of the principles of independence of regional ombudspersons and consider coordinating the dismissal procedure with the federal ombudsman.