Kremlin: US statements about pro-Navalny protests show 'direct support for the violation of the law'

Kremlin officials blasted the U.S. government for expressing support for protests that swept Russia in support of arrested opposition leader Alexey Navalny, accusing the U.S. of backing violations of the law.

The protests, which drew tens of thousands of demonstrators, led police to make thousands of arrests. U.S. officials making statements in support of the demonstrators and condemning the police response included the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, the State Department, Sen. Ben SasseBen SassePresident of newly recognized union for adult performers boosts membership Romney blasts Biden over those left in Afghanistan: 'Bring them home' Progressives breathe sigh of relief after Afghan withdrawal MORE (R-Neb.) and Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulBiden threatens more sanctions on Ethiopia, Eritrea over Tigray conflict More Republicans call on Biden to designate Taliban as terrorist group How lawmakers aided the Afghan evacuation MORE (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“The U.S. supports the right of all people to peaceful protest, freedom of expression,” embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Ross tweeted. “Steps being taken by Russian authorities are suppressing those rights.”

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Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinClinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Hillicon Valley — Facebook 'too late' curbing climate falsities France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE, said in a statement that U.S. officials’ reactions “indirectly constitute absolute interference in our internal affairs” and are “direct support for the violation of the law of the Russian Federation, support for unauthorized actions,” according to The Associated Press.

“Many will say that many people came out for the illegal actions,” Peskov added. “No, few people came out; many people vote for Putin.”

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Navalny became ill on a domestic flight last year and was rushed to a German hospital, which diagnosed him as having been poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.

After his discharge from the hospital, Russia’s prison agency informed him that he would be in violation of the terms of a 2014 suspended sentence unless he returned to Russia immediately. Navalny returned to Moscow last weekend, five months after leaving Russia, and was arrested at the airport.

Navalny is set to appear for a court hearing Feb. 2.