Friends or foes? White House press secretary Sean Spicer condemned the mass arrests during opposition demonstrations in Russia earlier today. “Detaining peaceful protesters and journalists is an affront to core democratic values,” Spicer said.
Watch: Footage from Russia Day demonstrations in Moscow and St. Petersburg
Following mass arrests of demonstrators and members of the press in Russia earlier today, White House press secretary Sean Spicer condemned Russia’s actions and announced that the White House calls for the immediate release of the protesters. In the daily press briefing, Spicer told reporters that “detaining peaceful protesters and journalists is an affront to core democratic values.”
According to reports from Russia, about 600 people were arrested during demonstrations in Moscow, in which 5,000 people participated. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s wife tweeted that her husband had been arrested before the protests began. Another 3,500 people took part in demonstrations in St. Petersburg, of which about 500 were arrested.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer Photo Credit: Reuters/ Channel 2 News
According to reports, large police forces arrived at the demonstrations and began randomly picking people out of the crowd, most of them teens, declaring that the demonstrations were illegal. The protesters were chanted slogans like “Putin is a thief!” and “Russia will be free!”
Police arrest hundreds of protesters in Russia Photo Credit: Reuters/ Channel 2 News
The demonstrations broke out on Russia Day after Navalny called on the public to take to the streets to protest the country’s widespread corruption. With the help of blogs, YouTube and Twitter, activists were able to reach new audiences and vastly increase their numbers. In one of the videos, which had been viewed over 23 million times, the organizers declared that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev had accumulated huge private capital- something he has denied.
In a post leading up to the demonstrations, Navalny criticized the pervasive corruption among Russia’s leaders. He wrote that he wants to live in a modern, democratic country in which taxes pay for roads, schools and hospitals- and not for yachts, palaces and vineyards.