WATCH: U.S. respects ‘bravery’ and ‘heroism’ of Russians protesting war against Ukraine, says State Department

State Department spokesman Ned Price on Friday praised peaceful demonstrations in Russia against that country’s invasion of Ukraine, saying the U.S. “deeply” respected protesters.

“The citizens of Russia who are peacefully protesting, including in Putin’s own hometown and in dozens of other cities across the Russian Federation, are rejecting his violence against the people of Ukraine. We deeply respect them. We respect their bravery. We respect their heroism,” Price told reporters during a news briefing.

Watch Price’s remarks in the player above.

Protesters took to the streets in Moscow, St. Petersburg and across Russia on Friday to decry the invasion of Ukraine, even as authorities sought to suppress the spreading antiwar sentiment and project an image of strength and righteousness.

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The largest demonstration erupted in St. Petersburg, where several hundred people spontaneously gathered in the city center, chanting “No to war!” as police in full riot gear detained one protester after another.

The OVD-Info rights group that tracks political arrests counted 437 detentions in 26 Russian cities, including 226 in Moscow and 130 in St. Petersburg. In Moscow, police were also detaining random people who were just passing by, according to media reports.

The rallies on Friday night appeared smaller than on Thursday, when thousands took to the streets across Russia. A total of 1,820 demonstrators were detained in 58 Russian cities on Thursday night, including 1,002 in Moscow, according to OVD-Info.

Price’s briefing comes after President Biden announced new sanctions against Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine. Biden held back from imposing sanctions on Putin himself and from disconnecting Russia from the SWIFT international banking system.

Price spoke with PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff on Thursday to discuss Biden administration’s response.

“Our goal now is to prevent what we are seeing from becoming this all-out war, what would be a costly, devastating war for Ukraine, for the Ukrainian people, but also for Russia and the Russian people,” Price said. “Russians will be coming home in body bags. Russians may not see that on state-run television. They may not see their fellow citizens marching in the streets.”

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