Kremlin rejects U.S., EU calls to free
detained opposition protesters
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[March 27, 2017]
By Andrew Osborn
MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin on Monday
rejected calls by the United States and the European Union to release
opposition protesters detained during what it said were illegal
demonstrations the previous day and accused organizers of paying
teenagers to attend.
The protests, estimated to be the biggest since a wave of anti-Kremlin
demonstrations in 2011/2012, come a year before a presidential election
that Vladimir Putin is expected to contest, running for what would be a
Police detained hundreds of protesters across Russia on Sunday,
including opposition leader Alexei Navalny, after thousands took to the
streets to demonstrate against corruption and demand the resignation of
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
Medvedev's spokeswoman has called corruption allegations against him
"propagandistic attacks," saying they amount to pre-election posturing
by Navalny, who hopes to run against Putin next year.
Opinion polls suggest the liberal opposition, which Navalny represents,
has little chance of fielding a candidate capable of unseating Putin,
who enjoys high ratings. But Navalny and his supporters hope to channel
public discontent over official corruption to attract more support.
The United States and the European Union both issued statements calling
on Russia to free detained protesters, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry
Peskov said on Monday such calls were wide of the mark.
"We can't agree with these calls," Peskov told reporters on a conference
call, saying the police had been professional and properly enforced
He said the Kremlin had no problem with people expressing their opinions
at protest meetings, but said the timing and location of such events had
to be agreed with the authorities in advance, something which he said
had not been done in large part on Sunday.
[to top of second column]
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is escorted upon his
arrival for a hearing after being detained at the protest against
corruption and demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry
Medvedev, at the Tverskoi court in Moscow. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
The authorities are concerned opposition activists will try to
encourage people to break the law again in future, he said.
"We can't respect people who deliberately misled minors -- in
essence children -- calling on them to take part in illegal actions
in unsanctioned places and offering them certain rewards to do so,
thus putting their lives at risk," said Peskov.
"What we saw yesterday in certain places, and especially in Moscow,
was a provocation."
He said police had gathered factual evidence that some teenagers,
who had been detained, had been paid cash by protest organizers to
The Kremlin would listen to what people who took part in other
sanctioned anti-government protests in some Russian cities had said
on Sunday, Peskov promised.
(Reporting by Andrew Osborn/Maria Kiselyova; Editing by Kevin
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