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Russia bemoans U.S. "interference" as Alexey Navalny's arrest fuels mass protests

Protesters demand release of Alexey Navalny
Protests erupt in Russia after arrest of opposition leader Alexey Navalny 02:58

Moscow — Russia formally protested to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow on Monday over social media posts it said promoted huge anti-Kremlin demonstrations over the weekend. The Kremlin also accused U.S. tech giants of interfering in Russia's internal affairs.

On Saturday, tens of thousands rallied in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny. Russian security forces arrested more than 3,000 people during the protests across the country. Despite the crackdown on the unsanctioned protests, Navalny's supporters issued a call on Monday for another round of mass-demonstrations this weekend.

National Guard forces block the street during the
National Guard forces block streets in Moscow during rallies across Russia in support of jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny, January 23, 2020. Mihail Tokmakov/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty

Leonid Volkov, head of the jailed dissident's regional network, urged supporters in a tweet to hit the streets again on January 31 "for Navalny's freedom, for freedom for all, and for justice."

Russia's deputy foreign minister held talks with the U.S. ambassador to register dissatisfaction over the embassy's messages, ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told state-run media on Monday.

During the meeting, she said, Sergei Ryabkov expressed "strong protest" over the U.S. Embassy "spreading posts supporting illegal rallies in a number of Russian cities on social networks and on their internet platforms."

The meeting followed accusations by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov that the U.S. Embassy was interfering in Russia's domestic affairs after the embassy issued a "demonstration alert" to U.S. citizens in the country.

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny detained after returning to Russia 02:06

A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman told AFP that it was "routine practice" for U.S. embassies and consulates to issue safety messages to American citizens abroad.

Zakharova on Monday also said Russia would probe American IT companies over "interference" in the country's domestic affairs.

"We are doing serious work on how American internet platforms were involved in the American side's interference in our internal affairs," she said.

Ahead of the rallies, Russia's media watchdog Roskomnadzor ordered several social media platforms, including YouTube and Instagram, to delete calls for demonstrations that were posted on their platforms.  

More than 3,700 demonstrators were detained during the rallies, the OVD Info monitor reported, with several protesters injured in clashes with riot police.

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