No sooner had the White House condemned the Russian government's crackdown on massive demonstrations against corruption in the Kremlin than loud applause was heard from one of the regime's best-known opponents: Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a prisoner for nearly a decade and now the head of the anti-Putin Open Russia movement.
"United States strongly condemns the detention of hundreds of peaceful protestors throughout Russia that happened on June 12," press secretary Sean Spicer announced at Monday's regular White House briefing.
"Detaining peaceful protestors, human rights observers, and journalists is an affront to core democratic values. The United States will monitor the situation, and we will call on the government of Russia to immediately release all peaceful protestors."
From London, where he is now in exile, Khodokrovsky hailed Spicer's statement.
"[Spicer's] statement is clearly standing out, especially in the absence to any response so far from the European Union," Khodorkovsky told Newsmax.
By many accounts in the White House briefing room, Spicer's statement is also the first time criticism of the Putin government has been voiced from the official podium. When dissident filmmaker Vladimir Kara-Murza was poisoned earlier this year, Spicer told us the "White House was monitoring the situation" and reporters seeking a statement should contact the State Department.
Last month, when the Putin regime outlawed the Open Russia movement, Spicer told us to "contact the State Department for a statement."
This time, however, the president's top spokesman made the toughest statement yet about Putin.
"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 or retribution," Spicer's statement added.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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