Protests erupt across Russia, hundreds arrested: reports

Protests erupt across Russia, hundreds arrested: reports
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Hundreds of people were arrested across Russia on Sunday as protests erupted against corruption there, according to multiple reports.

The BBC reported that Alexei Navalny, the country’s major opposition leader, was arrested at a protest in the capital city of Moscow.

Navalny reportedly organized the protests, which the BBC said were illegal, as demonstrators urged Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to resign following allegations of corruption.

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Five hundred demonstrators were reportedly arrested throughout the country.

According to The Associated Press, approximately 5,000 protesters took to the streets in St. Petersburg, with some holding signs urging President Vladimir Putin to resign.

Neither Medvedev nor Putin has commented on the demonstrations, per the AP.

The State Department responded Sunday evening in a statement.

"The United States strongly condemns the detention of hundreds of peaceful protesters throughout Russia on Sunday," acting spokesman Mark Toner said.

"We were troubled to hear of the arrest of opposition figure Alexei Navalny upon arrival at the demonstration, as well as the police raids on the anti-corruption organization he heads," he continued.

"The United States will monitor this situation, and we call on the government of Russia to immediately release all peaceful protesters. The Russian people, like people everywhere, deserve a government that supports an open marketplace of ideas, transparent and accountable governance, equal treatment under the law, and the ability to exercise their rights without fear of retribution."

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) weighed in on the news of the protests earlier in the day, arguing the U.S. should not remain silent about the arrests.

"Putin’s thugocracy is on full display. The United States government cannot be silent about Russia’s crackdown on peaceful protesters," Sasse said in a statement.
 
"Free speech is what we’re all about and Americans expect our leaders to call out thugs who trample the basic human rights of speech, press, assembly, and protest."

The news comes as President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: Meetings on potential North Korea summit going 'very well' Freed American 'overwhelmed with gratitude' after being released from Venezuela Ivanka Trump to campaign for Devin Nunes in California MORE’s relationship with Russia has been under the microscope following FBI Director James Comey’s recent testimony in front of the House Intelligence Committee. Comey confirmed to the committee that the bureau is investigating Russia’s interference in the United States presidential election, including any potential links between Trump campaign staff and Russian officials.

The intelligence community in a declassified report in January concluded that Putin called for an influence campaign aimed at helping Trump win the White House. The report noted that it did not assess the impact of Russia’s activities.