As the world reeling from the long-awaited Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian citizens mobilized to protest against the military action, with Russian police respond by arresting 1,745 people people in 54 Russian cities, at least 957 of their in Moscow.
Hundreds of messages poured in in condemning Moscow’s most aggressive actions since the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Vladimir Putin called the attack a “special military operation” to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine from the “genocide” – a false to claim that the United States had predicted would be a pretext for invasionand which many Russians categorically rejected.
Tatyana Usmanova, an opposition activist in Moscow, wrote on Facebook she thought she was dreaming of when she woke up at 5:30 a.m. to news which she called ‘a shame that will forever be with us now.”
“I want ask ukrainians for forgiveness. We do not have vote for those who started the war,” she said.
As the sirens sounded in Kyivla capital of Ukraine, and large explosions were heard there and in other cities, the Russians were signing open letters and online petitions asking the Kremlin to end the assault, that Ukrainian health minister said to have killed at least 57 Ukrainians and wounded dozens more.
“Public opinion is in shock, people are in shock”, policy analyst Abbas Gallyamov told The Associated Press (AP).
A petition, started by prominent human rights advocateLev Ponomavyov, has garnered over 150,000 signatures across several hours and more more than 330,000 at the end of the day. More than 250 journalists registered on an open letter denouncing the aggression. Another one one was signed by some 250 scientists, while 194 city council members in Moscow and other cities have signed a third.
“I’m worried about the people a lot, I am worried to tears,” said Zoya Vorobey, a resident of Korolev, a city outside Moscow, she voice cracking. “I’ve been watching television since this morning, every minute, to see if anything changes. Unfortunately, nothing.
Several Russian celebrities and public figures, including some works for state television, spoke out against the attack. Elena Kovalskaya, director of a state-funded Moscow theater, announced on Facebook, she left son work saying “it’s impossible to work for a killer and be paid by him.
“I know that at the moment many of you feel despair, helplessness, shame over by Vladimir Putin attack on the friendly nation of Ukraine. But I urge you not to despair,” said human rights activist Marina Litvinovich. in a video statement on Facebook, call for mass protests Thursday night.
“We Russian people are against the war that Putin started. We don’t support this war, it is not fought on our name,” Litvinovich said.
But the authorities had none of this.
In Moscow and other cities they hastened to crack down on critical voice. Litvinovich was arrested outside of his residence shortly after posting the protest call. OVD-Info, a right group which tracks political arrests, reported that 1,745 people in 54 cities had been detained as of Thursday evening, at least 957 of their in Moscow.
The Russian investigative commission published a warning Thursday afternoon reminding Russians that unauthorized demonstrations are against the law.
Roskomnadzor, state communications and media watchdog, demanded that Russia media use “information and the data they only get from official Russian sources. Some media reported that employees of some state-funded companies have been ordered not to comment publicly on the events in Ukraine.
Human rights defenders warned of a new vague of repression on contestation.
“There will be new (criminal) cases involving subverters, spies, treason, prosecution for anti-war demonstrations, there will be detentions of journalists and bloggers, those who author critical posts on social media, bans on surveys of the situation in army and so on on”, leading human rights advocate Pavel Chikov wrote on Facebook.
“He is hard to say how big this new vague will be, since everything has been deleted already.”
Despite pressure from the authorities, more over 1,000 people reunited in the center of Moscow on Thursday evening, chanting “No to war! while passing cars honked their horns.
Hundreds also took in the streets in St. Petersburg and dozens in Yekaterinburg.
“This is the most shameful and terrible day in my life. I couldn’t even go work. My country is an aggressor. I hate Putin. What else should to be made to do people open their eyes?” Yekaterina Kuznetsova, 40-year-former engineer who joined the demonstration in St. Petersburg, told the AP.
Russia official line in in the meantime remained intransigent. Speaker of the upper portion house of parliamentValentina Matviyenko accused these who spoke out against the attack only cared about their “momentary problems.”
State television painted the attack in line with what putin said in son televised address announcing it.
Russia 1 TV host Olga Skabeyeva called it an effort “to protect people in Donbass of a Nazi regime” and declared that it was “without exaggeration, a crucial crossroads in history.”
Riot police began arresting protesters on the place Pushkin in central Moscow during an anti-war demonstration on Thursday, the RIA news the agency reported, after Russia launched a huge military transaction against Ukraine. The police cordoned off off the site, said a Reuters reporter. Meanwhile, people to have also been detained in Russia former imperial capital Saint Petersburg, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported on Thusday.
The OVD-Info monitor documented crackdowns on The Russian Opposition for years. the organization published photographs on Telegram messaging app of people holding up posters to express their solidarity with Ukraine, alone or in small groups.
Demonstrators were reportedly beaten by security forces.
Russian authorities previously warned citizens against protest against dramatic escalation in conflict, threatening people with arrest if they challenged warning.