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EU lawmakers slam Russia on democracy, media

Written by: Staff

STRASBOURG, France, Oct 25 (Reuters) European Union lawmakers called for democracy and human rights to take priority in future EU-Russia relations today and strongly condemned the killing of journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

The European Parliament urged Russian authorities in a non-binding resolution to conduct an independent and efficient investigation into the death of the high-profile reporter, whose work was often critical of the Kremlin.

Lawmakers voiced concern about ''increasing intimidation, harassment and murder of independent journalists and of other persons critical of the current government'' and said the trend risked damaging Moscow's reputation.

Parliament called on the EU and the Council of Europe, a pan-European human rights watchdog, to monitor the investigation into the Politkovskaya murder, which bore the hallmarks of a contract killing.

The EU and Russia are largely dependent on each other in the energy field. Moscow is the 25-nation bloc's biggest supplier of gas, and the EU is Russia's most important energy consumer.

The two sides are due to agree at a summit next month to launch talks on a new partnership and cooperation agreement later this year, and EU governments want to make energy a central aspect of the updated pact.

But parliament urged EU leaders to make democracy in the former Soviet giant its most important priority.

The resolution called on governments ''to give serious thought to the future of relations with the Russian Federation ... with a view to placing democracy, human rights and freedom of expression at the core of any future agreement and instituting a clear mechanism to monitor the implementation of all the clauses of such an agreement''.

Reuters PB DB2151

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