Russia has summoned a senior U.S. diplomat after accusing the State Department of meddling in the country’s internal affairs by publishing a map on social media showing the proposed route of an opposition protest in the Russian capital on August 3.
In a statement on August 9, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it had summoned Tim Richardson from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow's political section over the matter.
At issue is an August 2 travel warning, which appeared on the State Department's travel advisory Twitter feed, that outlines details of the protest, including the time it will take place, listing the streets affected, and a picture of a map detailing the route demonstrators were expected to take.
The State Department regularly issues such alerts for Americans traveling abroad.
"We underlined that we consider the publication of the route...as promoting participation in an illegal event [the protest] and calling for action which constitutes interference in the internal affairs of our country," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in its statement.
There was no immediate comment from the U.S. Embassy.
Moscow has witnessed protests since authorities there in early July banned many opposition and independent candidates from running in a municipal election in September.
The Moscow protests, and the push by government critics to run in next month’s city council elections, are shaping up as a showdown between the opposition and the authorities – both in the capital and in President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin.
Two successive Saturdays have seen a sizable turnout of demonstrators, met with a strong police crackdown that has swept up participants and bystanders alike.
An authorized rally is planned for August 10, and the embassy published on August 9 an alert on its website warning U.S. citizens to avoid the demonstration, and any demonstration-related activities, "given the size of the protest, unknown route or routes of protesters, substantial police presence, and past accounts of excessive use of force by law enforcement."
The expected location of the rally is listed as part of the warning, which is not accompanied by any maps.
Police detained more than 2,300 people at the July 27 and August 3 rallies. The United States, the European Union, Canada, and human rights groups have denounced what they called the "disproportionate” and “indiscriminate” use of force against the demonstrators.
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s criticism of the U.S. Embassy comes a day after the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned a German Embassy official over similar claims.
Russian police have also been criticized for impeding reporters trying to cover the Moscow protests, with some reporters being detained and equipment damaged.
"Moscow’s police force should ensure the safety of the press covering protests, not obstruct or detain journalists simply for doing their jobs," the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in statement on August 8. "This aggression toward Russia’s independent press is a clear attempt to intimidate journalists and censor coverage."