Wed, 18 Sep 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to prevent any situation occurring in Moscow similar to the 'yellow vest' protest movement that has rocked French cities since late last year.

Putin made the comments -- his first after weeks of Moscow protests to demand fair municipal elections next month -- as he met with French President Emmanuel Macron at his summer residence in southern France on August 19.

Demonstrators had to respect the law and those guilty of breaking Russia's legislation should be held responsible, he told reporters.

'We will do everything to make sure the situation remains within the realms of the law,' he said.

Macron told Putin that Russia must abide by democratic principles, including 'freedom of protest, freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, and the freedom to run in elections,' just like any member of the Council of Europe.

'Because I believe in a European Russia,' the French president said.

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.

Criminal charges have been filed against about a dozen people who have taken part in unauthorized demonstrations.

The crackdown has triggered international condemnation, including from France.

The weekly demonstrations in Moscow have turned into the biggest sustained protest movement in Russia since 2011-13, when protesters took to the streets against perceived electoral fraud.

Also, Putin said that there was 'no threat' of contamination after a deadly blast at a Russian missile testing site last week caused a temporary spike in radiation levels.

'There is no threat and no rise in the radiation level there. We sent experts there and they are controlling the situation now,' he said.

The August 8 accident during apparent testing of a new propulsion system in the northern Russian region of Arkhangelsk killed at least five and injured several others.

On August 13, Russia's federal weather agency announced a brief rise in radiation levels in the nearby city of Severodvinsk following the explosion.

Two days later, Norway's radiation-monitoring agency said it had recorded tiny amounts of airborne radioactive iodine hundreds of kilometers from the accident site.

Putin said that all necessary safety measures were being taken 'so nothing unexpected happens.'

All of those killed and injured in the Arkhangelsk incident would receive state awards, he added.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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