Kremlin Accuses U.S. Of Interference After Statements Criticizing Harsh Crackdown On Navalny Protesters

The Kremlin has accused the United States of interfering in Russian domestic affairs after U.S. officials in Washington and Moscow criticized the police crackdown on protesters backing jailed Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny.

The comments by spokesman Dmitry Peskov, made in an interview broadcast on January 24, echoed earlier remarks from the Foreign Ministry, which alleged that the U.S. Embassy had sought to encourage protesters by publishing an alert warning Americans about the location of the Moscow protest.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other major cities in support of Navalny, who was jailed a week ago after returning to Russia following his recuperation in Germany for poisoning by a military-grade nerve agent.

"Of course, these publications are inappropriate," Peskov told state TV. "And, of course, indirectly, they are absolutely an interference in our domestic affairs."

It wasn't clear what Peskov was specifically referring to.

Ahead of the protests, the U.S. Embassy published a fairly routine alert on its website as a warning to U.S. citizens about the potential danger for unrest. The Russian Foreign Ministry alleged that constituted support for the protests.

The U.S. Embassy also published a statement just prior to the start of the Moscow protests that said: "The U.S. supports the right of all people to peaceful protest, freedom of expression. Steps being taken by Russian authorities are suppressing those rights."

An embassy spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for further comment.

Later, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department condemned the heavy police crackdown, which resulted in the detention of nearly 3,500 Russians nationwide, with nearly half that number coming in Moscow.

Spokesman Ned Price also called on authorities to release Navalny and "credibly investigate his poisoning."

Other Western nations also criticized the Russian government's response. France's foreign minister offered support for the protesters and called for new sanctions.

European Union foreign ministers were scheduled to discuss the bloc's next steps on Russia at a meeting on January 25.

With reporting by AFP

Radio Free Europe

RFE/RL journalists report the news in 22 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established, including Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Russia.

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