MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman says the US embassy’s statements about the nationwide protests, in which more than 3,500 people are reportedly arrested, are interfering with the country’s internal affairs and encouraging Russians to break the law violated.
Dmitry Peskov criticized Sunday, a day after protests across the country calling for the release of the imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption activist who is Putin’s best-known critic.
During the protests, embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Ross said on Twitter: “The US supports the right of all people to peaceful protest and freedom of expression. The measures taken by the Russian authorities suppress these rights. “The embassy also tweeted a statement from the State Department calling for Navalny to be released.
Peskov said the statements “indirectly represent absolute interference in our internal affairs” and are “direct support for violation of the law of the Russian Federation, support for unauthorized acts”.
The protests drew thousands of people to major cities in Russia, including an estimated 15,000 in Moscow, and demonstrations took place in numerous other cities. However, Peskov dismissed the turnout as insignificant.
“Now many will say that many people came out because of illegal activities. No, few people came out; Many people vote for Putin, ”he said.
44-year-old Navalny, Putin’s most prominent and stubborn enemy, was arrested on January 17 when he was returning to Russia from Germany, where he was recovering from severe neurotoxin poisoning, which he alleges in the Kremlin and which Russian authorities deny.
Authorities said his five-month stay in Germany violated the provisions of a suspended sentence imposed in a 2014 fraud and money laundering conviction. He says this is fraudulent and politically motivated.
He is due to appear in court on February 2 to hear whether the suspended sentence will be converted to 3 1/2 years in prison.