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US denounces Russia’s ‘harsh tactics’ against protesters for Navalny’s release

State Department calls detention of over 2,500 demonstrators ‘troubling’

Protesters clash with riot police during a rally in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny in downtown Moscow, Russia, January 23, 2021. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP)
Protesters clash with riot police during a rally in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny in downtown Moscow, Russia, January 23, 2021. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP)

WASHINGTON, United States — Washington on Saturday rebuked Moscow over its use of “harsh tactics” against protesters demanding the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Police clashed violently with protesters in Moscow and arrested more than 2,500 in cities across the country Saturday as Russians took to the streets to denounce Kremlin rule and demand the release of Navalny.

“The United States strongly condemns the use of harsh tactics against protesters and journalists this weekend in cities throughout Russia,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Navalny being taken into custody and the arrests of his supporters were “troubling indications of further restrictions on civil society and fundamental freedoms,” he added.

Police detain a man during a protest against the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in People gather in Saint Petersburg, Russia, January 23, 2021. (AP/Dmitri Lovetsky)

“We call on Russian authorities to release all those detained for exercising their universal rights and for the immediate and unconditional release of Aleksey Navalny,” Price said, using an alternative spelling.

“We urge Russia to fully cooperate with the international community’s investigation into the poisoning of Aleksey Navalny and credibly explain the use of a chemical weapon on its soil.”

In Russia tens of thousands nationwide answered Navalny’s call to rally, which he issued after he was detained at a Moscow airport on arrival from Germany, where he had been recovering from a near-fatal poisoning with a nerve agent.

Saturday’s protests took on an unprecedented geographic scale, spanning more than 100 cities across the country. Previous large-scale opposition demonstrations in 2012 and 2019 were largely centered in Moscow.

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