The US government condemned Russian embezzlement charges against anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny and the prosecution of an all-female punk band for protesting against President Vladimir Putin in a church.
“All of these developments raise serious concerns about the politically motivated prosecutions of the Russian opposition and pressure on those who express dissenting views,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said yesterday in Washington. The US is “very concerned,” he said in a transcript posted on the State Department’s website.
Navalny faces as many as 10 years in jail after being charged yesterday with embezzling money from a state timber company, marking an escalation in Putin’s crackdown on the biggest unrest of his 12-year rule. In a trial that began this week, three members of the band Pussy Riot face seven years in prison for a stunt protesting Putin inside Moscow’s Christ the Savior cathedral in February.
Putin, 59, who won another six years in the Kremlin in March, has responded to the largest demonstrations since he came to power in 2000 by tightening controls over the Internet and non-governmental institutions, criminalizing libel and increasing fines for unsanctioned protests.
US lawmakers are pushing for a measure that would target human rights offenders in Russia as a condition for lifting Soviet-era trade restrictions.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved legislation in June that would impose travel and financial curbs on Russian officials deemed to be abusing human rights, including 60 suspected of involvement in the death of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow jail in 2009.