The United States condemned Russia's crackdown on anti-corruption protesters on Monday and called on Moscow to release peaceful demonstrators detained around the country.
"The United States strongly condemns the detention of hundreds of peaceful protesters throughout Russia," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said at a news briefing. "Detaining peaceful protesters, human rights observers and journalists is an affront to core democratic values."
Some 700 people were detained in Moscow and St. Petersburg earlier on Monday as baton-wielding riot police broke up demonstrations organized by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was arrested as he tried to leave his home in Moscow ahead of the protests.
Navalny, who is mounting a long-shot bid to unseat Russian President Vladimir Putin in a presidential election next year, had called for mass protests in Moscow and other cities against what he says is a corrupt system of rule overseen by Putin.
The Kremlin has repeatedly dismissed those allegations and accused Navalny of trying irresponsibly to whip up unrest.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now