On 31 January group of human rights and democracy activists were holding their monthly demonstration in Triumfalnaya Square in central Moscow in support of their constitutional right to freedom of assembly, when police officers broke up the protest, and arrested several people, including Oleg Orlov, Chair of human rights organisation Memorial, the winner of the 2009 European Parliament Sakharov Prize winner for freedom of thought. One month before, on 31 December, during the same regular demonstrations the police arrested another winner of the 2009 Sakharov Prize, Ludmila Alekseyeva.[:]
Despite Mr Orlov and Ms Alexeyeva swiftly were released within the same day of the arrest, Chairwoman Hautala strongly condemns the arrests as both shocking and gravely disappointing act by the Russian authorities.
Mr Orlov and Ms Alexeyeva were awarded the prestigious and internationally acclaimed European Parliament human rights award on 16. December 2009 for their life-long contribution to the human rights in Russia and beyond.
Chairwoman Hautala stressed that work of this nature should be appreciated and supported by any country which willingly has committed itself to obligations under international human rights treaties. Right to exercise the freedom of speech and expression are a prerequisite of a democratic state. Moreover, the Russian authorities must guarantee the safety of all human rights defenders in Russia and ensure that they can work without harrasment.
Chairwoman Hautala calls for the Russian authorities to release all detained human rights activists immediately. While in detention, the authorities must ensure that activists and all other human rights defenders are not ill-treated.