Police block protesters trying to break through during a demonstration against the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Sunday in St. Petersburg, Russia. | Valentin Egorshin/AP Photo
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday condemned Russia’s treatment of protesters seeking the release of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
“The U.S. condemns the persistent use of harsh tactics against peaceful protesters and journalists by Russian authorities for a second week straight,” he tweeted Sunday. “We renew our call for Russia to release those detained for exercising their human rights, including Aleksey Navalny.”
Thousands of Russians were arrested Sunday during mass protests against the incarceration of Navalny.
Blinken’s statement reflects a distinct shift in tone from a much more hands-off U.S. policy toward President Vladimir Putin and Russia during the Trump years.
Navalny, Putin’s most prominent critic, returned from Germany earlier this month after a long recuperation from an attempt on his life. He was immediately arrested.
Russia has downplayed the recent American and European protests over the treatment of Navalny and his supporters — and accused the U.S. of interfering in Russia’s internal affairs.