MOSCOW Russia said on Wednesday respect for human rights was declining in the European Union, as part of a campaign to turn the tables on the West's criticism of Moscow's rights record.
"We are seeing a certain deterioration in regard to safeguarding human rights in the EU member states," Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry's special representative for human rights, told a news conference.
"Undoubtedly during a financial and economic crisis, solving these problems will not become any easier," he said, shortly before leaving for Brussels to meet his EU counterpart Stavros Lambrinidis.
European leaders have expressed concern over the jailing of members of punk band Pussy Riot, prosecutions of opposition figures and laws restricting protests and foreign-funded organizations since President Vladimir Putin started a third term in May.
Putin, who is expected to meet EU leaders later this month for a twice-yearly summit, has said the West has no right to lecture Russia on human rights or use its concerns as an instrument of political pressure.
After years of Western criticism, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a report on human rights in other countries for the first time last year, focusing on allegations of abuse by U.S. authorities.
Dolgov was presenting the ministry's first report dealing solely with human rights in the EU, where Russia has complained of mistreatment of Russian-born children adopted in the EU and accused some bloc members of mistreatment of Russian-speaking minorities.
The report also cited allegations of abusive treatment of people in custody, poor prison conditions and bias against ethnic minorities and labor migrants.
Dolgov said the EU should take more action to combat "all this ugliness that is unfortunately taking place and continuing in the European Union members in terms of not observing human rights, not observing democratic standards and in terms of not following the rule of law".
(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Steve Gutterman)