( RIA Novosti ) - The White House and the U.S. State Department have expressed concern over the detention of opposition leaders during sanctioned demonstrations in Russia on the weekend.
Several opposition leaders were arrested in Moscow and St. Petersburg during an anti-president Dissenters' March ahead of parliamentary elections due December 2. Riot police were summoned to break up the rallies, which they said violated procedural rules for public gatherings. Moscow authorities said fewer than a thousand people attended the event in the capital.
White House National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in a statement on Sunday, "The United States is concerned by the aggressive tactics used by Russian authorities against opposition protesters yesterday in Moscow."
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack issued a similar statement, urging fair treatment and legal defense for the arrestees.
Police jailed Garry Kasparov, a leading figure in the united opposition movement The Other Russia, for five days. Following his arrest, the chess grandmaster pointed to severe violations of his rights, and Russian media cited major inconsistencies in police reports on the incident.
A spokeswoman for the Moscow City Court, Anna Usachyova, said the opposition leaders had been arrested for organizing the march. The authorities had sanctioned a gathering but not a march along the central streets, she explained.
President Vladimir Putin, whose popularity rating remains high after almost eight years in office, is heading the election list of the ruling United Russia party, expected to gain an overwhelming majority of parliamentary seats.
In his address to United Russia supporters last week, Putin accused some opposition forces in the country of using Western support in their attempts to restore an "oligarchic regime based on corruption and lies", an apparent reference to the turbulent 1990s.