US hopes Russia respects peaceful protests
The United States called Friday on both Russian authorities and protesters to remain peaceful as opponents of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin prepared major weekend demonstrations against his rule.
Putin has angrily accused the United States of inciting the protests after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised concerns about the fairness of parliamentary elections that Putin's party won but with a reduced majority.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the United States supported the right to peaceful protest in Russia as it does "anywhere in the world."
"We expect that those demonstrations will remain peaceful on behalf of all parties, whether they're the demonstrators or whether they are those keeping social order," she said.
"So our expectation is that if there are protests, that they will be peaceful and that they will be allowed to proceed peacefully," Nuland said.
The State Department earlier denied Putin's allegations that the United States has funded Russians so that they would challenge him, saying that Washington supports groups that work for democratic governance in general.
Russia's opposition is organizing rallies in at least 15 major cities including Moscow, where the demonstration is expected to draw some 30,000 people under the slogan "For Fair Elections."
© 2011 AFP