Prague, Czech Republic – Russia and the Czech Republic are crossing swords over the mass arrests following the recent protests in Moscow.
Protests ahead of Moscow local elections
On Saturday, at least 600 people (up to 800 according to some independent monitoring groups) were arrested in Moscow after riot police cracked down, sometimes violently, on an unauthorized protest organized in the Russian capital.
This was only the latest in a series of demonstrations that have seen thousands of Russians take to the streets after authorities disqualified a number of opposition candidates from running in the Moscow municipal elections, to be held on September 8.
One week ago, at least 1,400 demonstrators were arrested by law enforcement authorities, while some 20,000 protesters gathered in the streets of Moscow at the end of July, the biggest protest organized in the Russian capital in recent years.
Prague and Moscow clash over arrests of “peaceful protesters”
On Sunday, the Czech Foreign Affairs Ministry released a statement, expressing its “concerns” over the latest arrests of “peaceful protesters” and urging Moscow to respect the fundamental rights and its obligations arising from its OSCE membership.
Moscow fired back the next day. In a statement released on its Facebook page, the Russian embassy in Prague criticized the “selective” and “unilateral” reaction of Czech authorities regarding the behavior or Moscow riot police during the week-end protests.
The Russian embassy said it was “disappointed” by the “biased” stance adopted by the Czech Republic, claiming the Czech Foreign Affairs Ministry never expressed such concerns regarding crack-downs on demonstrations in the United States, the U.K. or France.
The statement was released on Facebook along with video footage from Russia Today showing the Metropolitan police arresting protesters in London.
“We call on our Czech partners to refrain from adopting a selective and biased approach to human rights”, it said, before pointing to “the international legal obligations of the Czech Republic concerning non-interference in the domestic affairs of foreign states”.