Russian police have arrested more than 2,000 anti-war protesters across the country, an independent monitor said, on the fourth day of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which took many Russians by surprise.
OVD-Info, which has been documenting the crackdown on the Russian opposition for years, said 2,114 protesters were arrested Sunday.
Turkey calls Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a “
That brought to 5,250 the number of protesters arrested since Putin launched the invasion in the early hours of Thursday, the monitor said.
In Moscow, riot police often outnumbered the protesters, some of whom carried handwritten signs with peace signs and anti-war slogans in Russian and Ukrainian. Some wore masks with the word “Enough” written on the front.
A journalist from the independent television station Dozhd was arrested during the protests after showing his accreditation to police and wearing a press vest.
Outside the upscale Gostiny Dvor department store in downtown St. Petersburg, hundreds of anti-war protesters gathered, hugging and chanting.
Many held signs that read “No to war,” “Russians go home” and “Peace to Ukraine.”
“It’s a pity that there are hundreds, even thousands of us, and not millions,” said 35-year-old engineer Vladimir Vilokhonov, who took part in the protest.
Another protester, Alyona Stepanova, 25, came to the demonstration with a packed bag in case “we were taken away.”
“We think it’s our duty to come here,” she said.
Riot police tried to muffle their anti-war cries by playing patriotic music.
“I am against the war. I was born in 1941 and I know what it means,” said Valeria Andreyeva, who was born the year Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union.
Sunday’s protests coincided with the seventh anniversary of the assassination of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov.
In Moscow, some of the arrests took place at a makeshift memorial just outside the Kremlin at the site where Nemtsov was shot, a Reuters witness said. “No to war!” shouted one of the protesters as he was led away by police.
Nemtsov was a prominent critic of Putin, Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s support for pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, which ultimately led to what Putin calls a “special operation” to protect two separatist regions, though his troops are fighting in wider Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Western allies have imposed unprecedented sanctions in response to Russia’s land, sea and air invasion.