The State Department demanded that the Kremlin immediately release opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
The U.S. strongly condemns “the use of harsh tactics against protesters and journalists in cities across Russia” in dispersing mass rallies in support of Alexei Navalny. The State Department said so in a statement issued Saturday afternoon.
The State Department noted that Russian authorities have also harassed protest organizers by threatening social media and arresting potential protesters in advance. For years, the regime “has been tightening restrictions and cracking down on civil society, independent media, and political opposition,” according to the report from the U.S. foreign policy agency.
The crackdown on civil rights in Russia, the arrest of Alexei Navalny, and the crackdown on protests that followed are all troubling signs that further restrictions on civil society and basic freedoms in Russia, according to U.S. officials.
The State Department calls on “Russian authorities to release all detainees for exercising universal rights, and to release Alexei Navalny immediately and unconditionally. In addition, Washington continues to call on Moscow to “fully cooperate with the international community in the investigation into the poisoning of Alexei Navalny and… explain the use of chemical weapons on its territory,” the statement said.
Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, expressed concern about the Russian authorities’ response to Saturday’s mass protests and said he regretted the “widespread arrests” and “disproportionate use of force,” France-Presse reported.
“I am following events in Russia with concern,” Borrell said in a tweet, “I regret the widespread detentions, the disproportionate use of force, the internet, and telephone blackouts. We will discuss the next steps with EU foreign ministers on Monday.”
Police detained more than 2,300 marchers and rally participants during the January 23 Russia-wide “Freedom for Alexei Navalny” rally. In Moscow, according to OVD-Info, about 900 people were detained.