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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bush Slams Kremlin on Protester Arrests

U.S. President George W. Bush criticized Russian authorities for the way they broke up election demonstrations against President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin, meanwhile, accused Washington of double standards in criticizing police actions in breaking up Dissenters' Marches over the weekend in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and a senior Interior Ministry official accused demonstrators of accepting foreign funding.

Bush expressed deep concern Monday over the detention of political leaders, including former world chess champion Garry Kasparov. "The freedoms of expression, assembly and press, as well as due process, are fundamental to any democratic society," Bush said in a statement.

Baton-wielding riot police detained dozens of activists rallying against Putin in Moscow on Saturday and St. Petersburg on Sunday. Many of those detained had been protesting peacefully before police carried them off to vans.

City Hall had given permission for a rally in Moscow, but not for a march.

"I am particularly troubled by the use of force by law enforcement authorities to stop these peaceful activities and to prevent some journalists and human rights activists from covering them," Bush said. "I am hopeful that the government of Russia will honor its international obligations in these areas, investigate allegations of abuses and free those who remain in detention."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded Tuesday to the criticism, saying, "While expressing their concern about the actions by law enforcement bodies, our partners avoid expressing similar concerns about illegal actions by those who tried to provoke unrest in Moscow and St. Petersburg."

"Apparently, when formulating their reaction, the authors are using sources that are not objective and are often biased," Peskov said, referring to Bush's comments.

The reaction contrasted sharply with the mild criticism voiced by Washington when police in Georgia, a U.S. ally, used tear gas and truncheons to break up a recent opposition rally, Peskov said.

Echoing Putin's speech to supporters in which he described his political opponents as greedy "jackals" taking orders from foreign patrons, First Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Chekalin told reporters in Moscow on Tuesday that protesters in St. Petersburg had received money from foreigners.

"It's obvious that all of this is being organized using money sent in from abroad," Chekalin said.

Kasparov's spokeswoman, Marina Litvinovich, denied the charge.

"Certainly, it's a lie," Litvinovich said. "Our marches were never financed from abroad, and we have never had foreign money."

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed Bush's criticism, saying police had responded properly to "provocations" by protesters who refused to remain in an area where city authorities had permitted them to demonstrate.

"All democratic states have laws, and people must abide by them," Lavrov said in Washington in remarks broadcast Tuesday on state-run Vesti-24 television. "I saw nothing in the actions of the law enforcement organs to indicate that they exceeded their authority."

AP, Reuters, MT