Now that the White House has officially blasted the Kremlin's crackdown of protesters, the face of Russian dissidents is calling on President Trump to exert pressure for the release of some 1,400 protesters jailed in Moscow and St. Petersburg on June 12 and 13.
“It is right and proper that the U.S. government is demanding the release of those arrested,” Vladimir Kara-Murza, vice-chairman of the Open Russia dissident group told Newsmax. “It would also be right for President Trump to raise this issue directly with Vladimir Putin when they meet in Hamburg [for the G-20 summit] in July.”
Asked if the president does plan to bring up the issue with Vladimir Putin next month, deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders was noncommittal. “I'm not sure,” she told me. “I'd have to check. But as usual standard, we try not to get ahead of conversations that the president may have. But I'm sure we'll provide a readout after they have a conversation, if that takes place.”
Beginning in January, the Trump administration has avoided tough responses to reports of heavy-handed treatment of Putin opponents in Russia. On Feb. 8, when Newsmax asked press secretary Sean Spicer to respond to news that Kara-Murza had been poisoned and that members of Congress were charging the Kremlin with the act, Spicer replied, “we are monitoring the situation, and I suggest you call the State Department.”
In May, when the Russian government outlawed the Open Russia movement that was founded by longtime dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Spicer again told us to “call the State Department” for a reaction.
Last week, however, Spicer issued a strong condemnation of “the detention of hundreds of peaceful protestors throughout Russia that happened on June 12. Detaining peaceful protesters, 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 protesters."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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