Russia President Vladimir Putin played down the significance of a series of large street protests in Moscow, calling them a part of "preelection tensions."
Speaking on August 21 during a visit to Finland to meet with his counterpart, Sauli Niinisto, the Russian president justified the police detention of large numbers of protesters, saying demonstrations in other countries had had much more serious consequences.
"As for the events in Moscow, it is related to raised tensions during the preelection campaign."
"Russia respects human rights and the rights of its citizens," Putin told reporters, adding that civilians and police who break the law "will be held accountable."
There have been weekly protests in the Russian capital for more than a month since the authorities barred some opposition and independent candidates from running in a September 8 election for the city's legislature.
Police have used force to disperse the demonstrations, which they described as "illegal mass gatherings," and detained more than 2,000 people.
Moscow police have repeatedly been accused of taking a heavy-handed approach, grabbing protesters forcefully and dragging them into vans.
The crackdown has triggered international condemnation.
In an effort to circumvent laws against unauthorized gatherings, Russian activists staged a series of one-person pickets in Moscow on August 17 as they continued their call for free elections.
On August 19, Putin vowed to prevent any situation occurring in Moscow similar to the "yellow vest" protest movement that has rocked French cities since late last year.
He made the comments as he met with French President Emmanuel Macron at his summer residence in southern France.