Russia Accuses U.S. Of Political Meddling by Promoting Anti-Putin Protests

The Russian government has said it plans to file a complaint with Washington and Berlin, accusing U.S. diplomats and a German news organization of encouraging major protests against President Vladimir Putin's regime this weekend.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told reporters on Sunday that the foreign ministry would be making the complaint, having collected evidence of western meddling in the protest movement, state news agency Tass reported.

Zakharova said the U.S. Embassy in Moscow was at fault. She noted that diplomats there "published a route of that so-called stroll planned for Saturday," and that the itinerary of the event was set out "item by item, minute by minute…what time it ends and so on and so forth."

She also claimed that a note at the end of the document requested that protesters did not follow the route set out. "As we understand, 90% of that information appealed to people to join the event," Zakharova said.

The map posted on the embassy website—as part of a travel warning for U.S. citizens in Moscow—did have a message below the depicted protest route, which read: "Meetup at any of the indicated spots. Direction: depending on the situation." While this addition could be interpreted as encouraging, it does not request protesters to take alternative routes.

Alongside the map, the embassy warned that the rally had not been approved by Russian authorities and that Americans "should avoid the protest route." It urged readers to avoid the area entirely and stay away from any large crowds nearby.

Nonetheless, Zakharova cited the document as proof of U.S. complicity. "As you know, nothing can be rubbed out on the internet," she said. "Unconditionally, we will officially submit all the files to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, and not just to the embassy. I think that the U.S. leadership will be very surprised at how their diplomats meddle in Russia's internal affairs," Zakharova added.

Zakharova said the embassy staff were compromising those "who take to the streets and speak out what they think about Russia's future. You are setting them up."

A State Department spokesperson told Newsweek the department was "concerned" about the arrests, as well as "reports of excessive force by police."

"The people of Russia, like people everywhere, deserve free and fair elections, transparent and accountable governance, equal treatment under the law, and the ability to exercise their rights without fear of retribution," the spokesperson added.

The Russian foreign ministry is also accusing German media organization Deutsche Welle of promoting the anti-Putin protest movement. In what she described as a "phenomenal gaffe," Zakharova claimed that the channel broadcast a Russian-language call to Moscow residents to take part in the demonstrations.

"Regrettably, we will have to notify the German side…of our concerns and the practical steps we are going to take," she said, noting that Deutsche Welle receives state funds.

Russian security services said they had made some 600 arrests during Saturday's action, which is believed to have been attended by more than 1,500 people. Independent observers, however, put the number of arrests closer to 1,000. Activists have planned fresh action for next weekend.

This article has been updated to include a statement from the State Department.

Russia, protests, US, meddling
Servicemen of the Russian National Guard detain a man during an unsanctioned rally urging fair elections in downtown Moscow on August 3, 2019. ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty