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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 SasseJudiciary Committee greenlights Garland's AG nomination Kinzinger: GOP 'certainly not united' on 'vision for the future' Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote MORE (R-Neb.) and Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulBlinken speaks with Ethiopian leader about human rights concerns in Tigray Biden to sanction Russia over Navalny poisoning, jailing Overnight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission 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 PutinWray hints at federal response to SolarWinds hack Kremlin: Musk invitation to Putin to chat on Clubhouse 'some kind of misunderstanding' Biden to sanction Russia over Navalny poisoning, jailing 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.