In Russia, police arrest thousands participating in 'anti-war' protests, threaten with 'legal repercussions'

WION Web Team
Moscow, Russia Updated: Feb 25, 2022, 01:08 PM(IST)

A demonstrator displays a placard during an anti-war protest in Saint Petersburg, Russia, after President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine. The placard reads: 'No to war in Ukraine! Return the forces home!'.  Photograph:( Reuters )

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Investigative Committee, the government body that investigates major crimes, warned Russians, that they could face legal repercussions for joining unsanctioned protests related to 'the tense foreign political situation'

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Nearly 1,400 people were detained by Russian police during anti-war protests across the country after President Vladimir Putin sent troops to invade Ukraine, an independent monitor reported Thursday.

"More than 1,391 people have already been detained in 51 cities," said OVD-Info, which tracks arrests at opposition rallies. According to the monitor, more than 700 people have been detained in Moscow and over 340 in Saint Petersburg, the second-largest city.

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In the early hours of Thursday, a number of Russian activists called on social media for people to take to the streets after Putin launched an offensive on Ukraine.

Approximately 2,000 protesters gathered near Pushkin Square in central Moscow, and up to 1,000 protesters gathered in Saint Petersburg, the former imperial capital.

Around Pushkin Square in Moscow, protesters chanted "No to war!"

"I am in shock. My relatives and loved ones live in Ukraine," Anastasia Nestulya, 23, said in Moscow.

"What can I tell them over the phone? You hang in there?" She said many were afraid to protest.

In Saint Petersburg, many struck a similar note.

"I have a feeling that the authorities have gone mad," said Svetlana Volkova, 27. The Russian protestor said that most people were unwilling to protest. 

"People have been fooled by propaganda."

As he was dragged away by three police officers, a young man shouted: "Who are you fighting with? Arrest Putin."

In recent years, protest laws in Russia have been toughened, and demonstrations often result in mass arrests. 

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Alexei Navalny, the jailed opposition leader who used to organise Russia's largest anti-Putin protests said he was against the invasion of Ukraine on Thursday.

The independent television channel Dozhd published a video in which Navalny was heard saying, "I am against this war.".

"This war between Russia and Ukraine was unleashed to cover up the theft from Russian citizens and divert their attention from problems that exist inside the country," the 45-year-old said. 

Russian authorities had warned anti-war sympathisers against protesting.

Investigative Committee, the government body that investigates major crimes, warned Russians, that they could face legal repercussions for joining unsanctioned protests related to "the tense foreign political situation".

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"One should be aware of the negative legal consequences of these actions in the form of prosecution up to criminal liability," the committee said.

On social media, these arrests have earned Russia and Putin some major scorn with some going so far as to label the Russian premier a "tyrant".

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Many have come out in support of the protestors

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(With inputs from agencies)

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