Moscow says US backed protests, despite embassy call to stay away

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Moscow summoned a representative of the US embassy on Friday over what it said were calls to take part in opposition protests, despite US warnings to stay away from the rallies.

The US and Europe have criticized Russia’s crackdown on a series of protests for fair local elections. The rallies have seen thousands arrested and police hitting demonstrators with batons.

Last week the US embassy issued a “demonstration alert” on it website ahead of a protest on Saturday, giving the time and location of the march along with warnings to “avoid the area” and “avoid demonstrations.”

But the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday that it considered the posting of a map showing the location of a Moscow rally a “call to participate... which is an attempt to intervene in the affairs of our country.”

It added that it had summoned a US diplomat over the issue.

Moscow earlier criticized the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle for what it said were calls to take part in the rally.

The crackdown on the protests is the largest since demonstrations against Vladimir Putin’s 2012 return to the Kremlin that Moscow also said were encouraged by the US.

Over the past few weeks, thousands of Russians have taken part in protests against the exclusion of popular opposition politicians from Moscow’s parliament elections in September.

The authorities have pushed back, opening a probe into “mass unrest” and making nearly 2,400 arrests at two recent unauthorized rallies.

A further, authorized protest is planned for Saturday.

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