In Moscow, on Saturday, August 3, some 800 protesters were arrested by security forces on the sidelines of a protest in support of opposition candidates in the local elections in September, according to figures from the NGO specialized in monitoring such arrests.
In a statement issued on Sunday, August 4 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and relayed by LCI , the French government condemned these arrests as well as “the obviously excessive use of the force that accompanied them”.
France also wanted to remind Russia of its commitment “to freedom of expression in all its forms, including that of demonstrating peacefully and participating in free and transparent elections”.
Already last weekend, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs had called for the “quick release” of arrested protesters and expressed their “deep concern”.
The comments irked Moscow and a Russian official responded on Facebook: “It’s the same France where for about a year, real conflicts have been raging between protesters and the police, according to the French themselves.”
The spokesperson of the Russian government Maria Zakharova noted “the repressive methods” of the French police.
And the diplomat added: “French authorities have subjected their population to all sorts of repressive methods: from tear gas and water cannons to mass arrests. The demonstrations were not allowed and the police acted as if [the demonstrators] were foreign occupants and not as if they were the French population.”
In Russia, courts announced on Tuesday that they have ordered about 60 pretrial detentions and sentenced more than 160 people to fines after Saturday’s demonstration. Last weekend, the police had already carried out 1 400 arrests, a record since the return of Vladimir Putin to the Russian presidency.
One opponent of the Kremlin, Alexei Navalny was arrested on July 24, for a period of thirty days. He was hospitalized last weekend for a “serious allergic reaction” but later returned to his cell.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry will meanwhile submit official notifications to Washington and Berlin over interference in Russia’s domestic affairs.
The US embassy to Russia was involved in the unauthorized rallies held in Moscow on August 3, according to Zakharova. “As for Saturday’s strolls, the embassy of the United States was most closely involved in that activity,” the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman pointed out.
“The US embassy in Moscow had published a route of that so-called stroll planned for Saturday,” she explained. “Item by item, minute by minute was the itinerary set out: what time it starts, what time it ends and so on and so forth,” she added. And at the end of the document, the participants were urged not to follow the given route.
“As we understand, 90 percent of that information appealed to people to join the event,” Zakharova said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman mentioned the public comments voiced by the US embassy’s spokesperson after the banned protest.
Germany’s Deutsche Welle news channel even called on Muscovites to take to the streets. “Regrettably, we will have to notify the German side – moreover, the channel is state-funded – of our concerns and the practical steps we are going to take,” the diplomat concluded.
Russian authorities had warned the protesters beforehand about the inadmissibility to break the law and Moscow’s Prosecutor Office opened an administrative investigation against 15 unregistered candidates to the Moscow City Duma, who had organised unsanctioned rallies.