|Russian President Putin looks on after meeting with President of Iceland Gudni Johannesson as part of International Arctic Forum in Arkhangelsk|
Speaking at an Arctic forum in northern Russia, Putin, who is expected to seek a fourth presidential term next year, also said his political opponents were trying to channel public discontent about corruption for their own “mercenary” needs.
“We know well that this tool was used at the start of the so-called Arab Spring, what this led to, and what bloodshed happened in the region,” Putin said, in his first comments on the weekend street protests.
Thousands of people took part in anti-corruption rallies across Russia on Sunday and dozens of them were arrested or fined.
The United States and the European Union called on the Russian authorities to free detainees.
Putin condemned their calls on Thursday.
|Law enforcement officers detain an opposition supporter during a rally in Moscow|
“Everybody should abide by the law and everyone who breaks the law should be punished in accordance with Russian legislation.”
The authorities refused to grant protesters formal permission to hold their rallies in most cities meaning that the demonstrations were, in their eyes, illegal.
Opposition activists disagreed however and cited the Russian constitution which they said gives people the right to gather peacefully without the authorities’ approval.