Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska said that the White House should condemn arrests of anti-Putin protesters in Russia.
"The United States government cannot be silent about Russia’s crackdown on peaceful protesters. Free speech is what we’re all about, and Americans expect our leaders to call out thugs who trample the basic human rights of speech, press, assembly, and protest," Sasse said in the statement, according to Politico.
Sasse, who opposed Trump during the 2016 presidential election, has not relented since President Donald Trump's victory and remains a fierce critic of the president and has voiced concern about allegations that Trump is not hard enough on Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a recent interview with ABC News.
Soon after Sasse's statement, the State Department acting spokesman Mark Toner released a statement condemning the Russian government for arresting protesters more than 700 people were arrested at rallies across the country, according to numbers provided by a Russian human rights group and reported on by CNN.
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"The United States strongly condemns the detention of hundreds of peaceful protesters throughout Russia on Sunday, "Toner said, according to Politico. "Detaining peaceful protesters, human rights observers, and journalists is an affront to core democratic values. We were troubled to hear of the arrest of opposition figure Alexei Navalny upon arrival at the demonstration, as well as the police raids on the anti-corruption organization he heads."
Toner added that the U.S. will continue to monitor events in Russia and called on the Russian government "to immediately release all peaceful protesters."
"The Russian people, like people everywhere, deserve a government that supports an open marketplace of ideas, transparent and accountable governance, equal treatment under the law, and the ability to exercise their rights without fear of retribution," Toner said.
Among the 700 protesters arrested was Alexey Navalny, a fierce critic of the Kremlin who helped lead massive anti-Putin protests in 2011 and 2012.
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"Today we are discussing (and condemning) corruption, not the detentions. Well, I was detained. So what. It OK. There are things in life that are worth being detained for," Navalny tweeted, according to CNN.
The New York Times reported that 100 anti-Putin rallies took place across Russia. All but 17 of the rallies were declared illegal.
In Moscow, protesters blocked security vans with cars and riot police were deployed to break up the actions, although they "mostly avoided brutal measures," according to the New York Times.