Canada urges release of detained pro-Navalny protesters in Russia

Russian police clash with protesters during a rally in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Saint Petersburg on January 31, 2021
Russian police clash with protesters during a rally in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Saint Petersburg on January 31, 2021 Olga MALTSEVA AFP
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Montreal (AFP)

Canada on Sunday urged the release of protesters held in "mass detentions" during demonstrations in Russia against the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

"Canada is deeply concerned by the mass detentions and the use of force against protesters and journalists in Russia," Foreign Minister Marc Garneau wrote on Twitter.

"We call on Russia to release those detained, adhere to its international commitments and protect media freedom."

Police in Russia detained more than 4,800 people in several cities and blocked off the center of Moscow on Sunday in a massive clampdown on protests.

The United States and the European Union have condemned the widespread detentions and what US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Russia's "harsh" tactics.

Navalny, the main rival of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was detained at Moscow airport in mid-January after returning to Russia from Germany, where he was recovering from an August poisoning he blames on the Kremlin.