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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Russia says US Embassy statement on protesters supports ‘violation of the law’

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman criticized statements from the United States that expressed support for the protesters in Russia who are demonstrating against the arrest of outspoken Putin critic Alexei Navalny.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the U.S. Embassy in Russia’s statements “indirectly constitute absolute interference in our internal affairs,” according to the Associated Press, criticizing the statements further for their “direct support for the violation of the law of the Russian Federation, support for unauthorized actions.”

“Now many will say that many people came out for the illegal actions. No, few people came out; many people vote for Putin,” Peskov said.

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Peskov specifically criticized tweets from U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Ross, who wrote on Saturday that the U.S. “supports the right of all people to peaceful protest, freedom of expression” and said that Russian authorities were “suppressing those rights.”

In a follow-up tweet, Ross said Russian authorities were participating in a “concerted campaign to suppress free speech, peaceful assembly.”

“This continues years of Russia tightening restrictions, repressive actions against civil society, independent media, political opposition,” Ross tweeted.

Navalny, 44, was arrested on Jan. 17 after returning to Russia from Germany, where he was recovering after being poisoned by a nerve agent called Novichok. Navalny fell ill on a plane that left Omsk and was briefly hospitalized in Serbia before he was allowed to be transported to Germany.

Labs in Germany, France, Sweden, and an international commission against the use of chemical weapons all independently confirmed the presence of the Soviet-era nerve agent in Navalny’s toxicology reports.

In December, Russia’s prison service gave the Kremlin critic a Dec. 29 deadline for returning to Moscow from Germany. If he returned after the deadline, Navalny would be jailed.

Navalny is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 2 for a hearing and faces up to 3 1/2 years in prison.

Thousands of people have been arrested by Russian authorities for participating in the protests, calling for Navalny’s release and condemning corruption within the government.

Russia was apparently incensed after the U.S. posted an advisory on Friday about the protests, including the locations and times for demonstrations in a dozen cities. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs quickly hit back and hinted at a “response” in a statement.

“All that coincides with Washington’s provocative doctrinal guidelines to encourage ‘protests in the countries with unwanted governments,’” the foreign ministry said. “Any attempts of this ‘coverage’ of unauthorized rallies will be regarded as gross interference in our country’s domestic affairs and will lead to a corresponding response.”



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