Russia probes 'foreign meddling' after protests

AFP , Monday 19 Aug 2019

Russia's parliament on Monday agreed to probe "foreign meddling" in the country's affairs, following a wave of protests that Moscow has accused Western governments and media of backing.

A committee will investigate reports by foreign media as well as "embassies which distributed information" about the demonstrations, lower house speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said.

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Moscow in recent weeks to protest the authorities' decision to block prominent opposition figures from standing in local elections.

Moscow has summoned a representative of the US embassy saying a "demonstration alert" it sent with details of the protest amounted to "an attempt to intervene" in Russian affairs.

The post called for US citizens to stay away from the protests.

The government's internet watchdog has accused Google of "advertising unsanctioned mass actions" on YouTube. The foreign ministry criticised German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle for what it said were calls to take part in the rally.

The rallies, which come amid declining living standards and a stagnating economy, are Russia's largest since mass protests broke out when President Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin after a term as prime minister in 2012.

Police made over 3,000 arrests over the past month and Western countries have criticised what they described as the "excessive use of force" on peaceful crowds, after officers used batons on demonstrators and bystanders.

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