The Kremlin on Sunday accused the U.S. embassy of interfering in Russia’s domestic affairs after the mission distributed a “demonstration alert” to US citizens in Russia recommending they avoid protests.
Nearly 3,500 protesters were arrested at demonstrations in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Saturday, a monitor reported, as Russian authorities probed violence on the part of both protesters and police.
Police clashed with demonstrators in Moscow as tens of thousands took to the streets across the country on Saturday following Navalny’s call to demonstrate against President Vladimir Putin’s 20-year rule.
Ahead of the demonstrations, the U.S. embassy issued a safety warning to Americans based in Russia.
“Of course, these publications are inappropriate,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a state TV channel.
“And of course indirectly, they are absolutely an interference in our domestic affairs,” he added.
He accused the U.S. embassy of “indirectly” supporting the violation of Russian legislation and backing “unauthorised protests”.
He said that if the Russian embassy in the United Sates issued similar information “this would cause a certain feeling of discomfort in Washington”.
The Russian foreign ministry on Saturday said the representatives of the U.S. embassy would be summoned and would have to “explain themselves”.
A U.S. mission spokeswoman earlier Sunday said U.S. embassies and consulates around the world routinely issue safety messages to U.S. citizens.
“This is a common, routine practice of many countries’ diplomatic missions,” she told AFP.
On Saturday, the U.S. embassy in Moscow also said it was following the rallies, adding that Washington supported “the right of all people to peaceful protest, freedom of expression”.
“Steps being taken by Russian authorities are suppressing those rights,” embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Ross said on Twitter.