The already ongoing tensions between Russia and the Western countries over the issue of the arrest of Aleksei Navalny, the leader of President Vladimir Putin in Russia, has increased. Russia has reacted strongly to criticism from Western countries, especially the US, in this matter.
The US embassy in Moscow said on Saturday that Russian authorities were targeting ‘peaceful protesters and journalists’ during demonstrations across the country in support of Navalny. Embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Ross made this claim via a Twitter message. He said that the police action on anti-government protesters is part of the ‘concrete campaign to suppress expression and peaceful gatherings’.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also responded to this through a social media post. It said that Ministry officials had investigated what Ross had written about the demonstrations in Washington and the capture of Capitol Hill (US Parliament House). The post stated that he did not write anything on it. He did not appeal to the citizens of his country to show peaceful protest. Nor condemned the killing of five people and the arrest of more than 100 people. But his boss John J. Sullivan (America’s new National Security Advisor) certainly called the people gathered there a “violent mob”.
Russian Foreign Ministry officials said in the post that hypocrisy is their weapon in American diplomacy, which has become even more dangerous in the era of the Corona epidemic. At the same time, it has been suggested that ‘you pay attention to the problems of your country and stop interfering in the internal affairs of other countries’.
In a separate statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry asked the US embassy why it posted different routes of protest on social media where the protesters planned to gather. The ministry said that it is only imaginable that the Russian Embassy in Washington would have posted posts on social media about a demonstration route like Capitol Hill. If that happened, American politicians would have raised the ruse of ‘Russiagate’, threatening to ban Russia and expel Russian diplomats from the country.
Demonstrations were held in several cities in Russia on Saturday in support of the demand for the release of Navalny. The demonstrations were not allowed by the Russian authorities. Still thousands of people took to the streets. There were also clashes between police and mob in Moscow. More than two thousand people were arrested across the country. The Russian Interior Ministry said that the number of protesters who came to Moscow was four thousand, but in Western media this number has been reported as 40 thousand.
According to a report on TV channel Russia Times website, Navalani’s team had expected more crowds to hit the road than it actually came. The police had made elaborate security arrangements in the wake of the protests. Loudspeakers were being warned from place to place that it was illegal to organize these demonstrations.
Navalny was arrested last week after being treated and returning from Germany. He is accused of violating the conditions set to allow him to postpone his earlier sentence due to illness. Navalani is convicted in a corruption case. In Western countries, he is described as the leader of the pro-democracy campaign in Russia. But a group in Russia sees him as an agent of Western countries.