Russia human rights: New ombudsman is former police general

Tatyana Moskalkova in a an undated handout picture Image copyright EPA
Image caption Tatyana Moskalkova is a lawmaker of the Just Russia party

The Russian parliament has controversially appointed a former police general as the country's new human rights ombudsman.

MPs overwhelmingly backed Tatyana Moskalkova for the job, despite concerns that she is an interior ministry insider rather than an independent advocate of human rights.

Human rights groups and activists have criticised the choice.

Ms Moskalkova is a member of the Kremlin-friendly Just Russia party.

She used her confirmation speech to lash out at Western critics of Russia's human rights record.

And she said veterans would be among those whose rights she would particularly seek to protect, as she was assuming office in the year of the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Union's entry into World War Two.

"This imposes many a duty on me: a duty to protect and prioritise the protection of rights and interests of our veterans and senior citizens, the disabled and those who have found themselves in a difficult situation today," she told MPs.

Following the 2012 protest by Pussy Riot in a Moscow church, Ms Moskalkova called for a new law to punish "attacks on morality," but her initiative was not taken up by parliament.

Far-right politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky questioned the choice of a long-term interior ministry official for the role during parliamentary debates, AP reports.

Ms Moskalkova "is a great person but her work in the Soviet police and in the police under [President Boris] Yeltsin cannot give us any reason to think that she is able and wants to defend human rights," he said.

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