MOSCOW Amnesty International, a strong critic of Russia's bombing campaign in Syria, will be able to return to its office in Moscow after being evicted for alleged non-payment of rent,Russia's state human rights council said on Thursday.Staff at Amnesty's Moscow office had told Reuters on Wednesday that they arrived at work to find the locks had been changed, official seals placed over the doors and the electricity cut off.The Moscow city government, from which Amnesty leased the premises in the Russian capital's centre, said the group was behind on the rent. Amnesty said it had documents to prove it was up to date with payments.
Mikhail Fedotov, head of the Russian Human Rights Council which formally reports to the Kremlin, told Reuters he had met President Vladimir Putin and discussed the matter on Thursday."The lease has been restored completely. They (Amnesty) will be able to return to the office in the nearest future. Putin was informed of this." Fedotov did not elaborate. The next working day in Russia is Monday.
John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International's Europe director, said on Wednesday the eviction might be part of an official crackdown on civil society groups that criticise the Kremlin, but he said there were other possible explanations.
Amnesty, which was founded in London, frequently criticises the Russian authorities over what it says are human rights violations. It has, in particular, alleged that Russia and its allies have killed large numbers of civilians with air strikes on the Syrian city of Aleppo. Moscow denies this. (Reporting by Svetlana Reiter; writing by Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by Mark Heinrich)
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