The fallout continues after thousands of supporters of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny were arrested during protests, with tensions flaring between Russia and other world powers.
Police detained more than 3000 people and used force to break up rallies across Russia on Saturday in support of Navalny, who was arrested last weekend as he returned to Russia from Germany for the first time since he was poisoned with a nerve agent.
The United States, the EU and Britain have all condemned the Russian security forces’ handling of the protests, and the foreign ministers of France and Italy on Sunday both expressed support for sanctions.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the arrests jeopardised the rule of law.
“The success of the demonstrations across Russia’s territory is impressive,” Le Drian said on France Inter radio on Sunday, saying he was worried about the country’s authoritarian drift.
During the protests, US Embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Ross said “the US supports the right of all people to peaceful protest, freedom of expression”.
“Steps being taken by Russian authorities are suppressing those rights,” she said on Twitter.
Russian President Vladimir Putin rebuffed the embassy’s statement on Sunday, with his spokesman saying it encourages Russians to break the law.
Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the statements “indirectly constitute absolute interference in our internal affairs” and are “direct support for the violation of the law of the Russian Federation”.
The protests were deemed illegal by Russian authorities.
Peskov also dismissed the turnout at the protests, which included an estimated 15,000 people in Moscow, as insignificant.
“Now many will say that many people came out for the illegal actions. No, few people came out – many people vote for Putin,” he said.
Meanwhile, a Russian police officer has been sacked from his post for voicing his support for the imprisoned dissident Navalny in a video on social media.
Ruslan Agibalov from the town of Kursk said he posted the clip “in support of Alexei Navalny and all political prisoners”.
Agibalov said the video, posted ahead of Saturday’s protests, was spurred by a fear of the questions his children might one day ask him.
“Dad, what did you do for us to be able to live in a free, prosperous country?” Agibalov, dressed in uniform, says in the video.
Agibalov was dismissed a short time later, according to the Kursk department of the Interior Ministry, which said the officer had besmirched the honour of the force.