Russian citizens continue to protest against the invasion of Ukraine despite harsh repression by the Russian authorities. As of 27 March, 15,106 arrests and detentions at anti-war actions had been recorded by the human rights monitoring group OVD-Info, who provided the following information. These arrests took place in 151 Russian cities, starting from the day of the invasion, 24 February.
That protests continue is astonishing, given the level of harassment, physical brutality and legal attack mounted by the authorities.
Students have been expelled from universities and people have been sacked from their jobs for taking part in anti-war activities. People and organisations that sign anti-war petitions have been subjected to telephone threats and physical attacks.
At just one demo in St Petersburg on 28 February, police injured a woman’s leg and broke a teenager’s nose. Journalist Andrei Kalikh’s shoulder was dislocated after he was thrown through a barrier and onto the pavement.
OVD-Info reported on 6 March that 30 instances of protesters being beaten by the police had been confirmed ‘and it is likely that this number is much higher’. That day, Russian police arrested over 4,640 people at anti-war rallies in 65 cities.
In St Petersburg, people detained at those protests were held without food or water – and kept awake for 24 hours.
In Moscow, police pressured people arrested on 3 March to ‘confess’ by holding them in police vans without food, water or heat – some of them for two full days. (The temperature in Moscow went below zero in the evening of 3 March and reached a low of -5 ºC the next day.)
Despite this kind of treatment, protesters have continued to show their opposition.
OVD-Info records that, on 20 March, six women blocked a bridge in Karachaevo-Cherkessia republic, demanding information about relatives who had been sent to fight in Ukraine. They’re being prosecuted for carrying out an unauthorised protest.
“Dmitriy Reznikov was fined for holding a poster that only had asterisks on it: *** *****”
On 22 March, a court jailed feminist activist Anna Loginova for nine days because of a Women in Black action. Anna had walked through Yekaterinburg, with other women dressed in black and carrying white flowers, in an anti-war protest on 19 March.
On 25 March, in Kemerovo in central Russia, a person was imprisoned for 13 days for an anti-war post, under a law against inciting hatred.
Also on 25 March, a woman was arrested in Kazan for wearing a green ribbon on her clothes. Many people have been detained for this; the green ribbon is a new anti-war symbol in Russia.
Words fail me
On 22 March, a Moscow court fined Dmitriy Reznikov 50,000 rubles (£380) for standing in the city centre, on his own, on 13 March with a poster that only had asterisks on it: ‘*** *****’. Dmitriy was found guilty of discrediting the Russian armed forces. (The eight characters may have been ‘нет войны’ – ‘no war’.)
Earlier, on 12 March, a Russian woman was arrested in Nizhny Novgorod for protesting with a blank sign.
The first blank-placard arrest was on 25 February: Anastasia Nikolaeva in Rostov in southern Russia. Anastasia was found guilty of disobeying a police officer after she held a single-person demo holding a blank sheet of paper.
On 13 March, Marina Dmitrieva was fined 20,000 rubles (£150) for a solo protest in Manezhnaya Square, Moscow, with a placard that just said ‘two words’ (presumably ‘нет войны’, ‘no war’). The court found her guilty of breaching public event regulations.
On 24 March, in Tiumen, a person was arrested for holding a sign reading: ‘I’m for peace.’
That same day, in Rostov, a 51-year-old was fined 50,000 rubles (£380) for making a public anti-war statement (thereby ‘discrediting the military’).
On 11 March, an Orthodox priest in Kostroma was fined 35,000 rubles (£270) for preaching against the war.