MOSCOW, Russia (AP) — Russian anti-war demonstrators went to the streets again on Sunday, this time from Moscow to Siberia, to demonstrate their opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, despite the detention of hundreds of protestors each day by police.
- Demonstrators gathered at picket lines and marched through city centres, yelling “No to war!” as Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the country’s nuclear deterrent to be placed on high alert, raising the stakes in the Kremlin’s standoff with the West and heightening concerns of a nuclear conflict.
- The thought of giving my two boys over to that bloodthirsty monster makes me sick to my stomach. “War is a catastrophe for all of us,” Dmitry Maltsev, a 48-year-old St. Petersburg resident who attended the demonstration, told the Associated Press on Saturday.
- Protests against the invasion began on Thursday in Russia and have continued on a daily basis since then, despite the fact that Russian authorities have responded quickly to suppress the demonstrations and imprison demonstrators.
- The Kremlin has attempted to minimise the demonstrations, claiming that a considerably larger proportion of Russians favour the military intervention in Ukraine.
On the other hand, in addition to public demonstrations and open letters, hundreds of people have signed petitions and approved open letters criticising the invasion in recent days. Celebrities and well-known television personalities have also spoken out against it. Over 930,000 signatures have been collected in four days on an online petition that was established hours after Putin revealed the strike. It is one of the most highly supported petitions in Russian history and has garnered over 930,000 signatures in four days.
Despite the fact that the rally in St. Petersburg was nonviolent, police in full riot gear were snatching protesters one by one and hauling them into police vehicles, even though the event was taking place in the city centre. Moscow police were seen pushing many female demonstrators to the ground and taking them away in video footage. According to the OVD-Info human rights organisation, which keeps track of political arrests, police arrested at least 2,710 Russians in 51 locations on Sunday for participating in anti-war rallies, increasing the total number of those imprisoned over the course of four days to over 6,000.
The stakes were raised dramatically on Sunday, just four days into the fighting that has already claimed dozens of lives. Putin ordered the military’s nuclear forces on high alert, citing Western countries’ “unfriendly actions against our country in the economic sphere” and “top officials from leading NATO members made aggressive statements regarding our country.”
In a warning issued only a day earlier, the United States and its European allies warned that a new wave of penalties could entail freezing Russia’s hard currency reserves and cutting Russia off from the SWIFT international payment system, among other things. The extraordinary measure has the potential to immediately throw the Russian economy into disarray. Russian citizens are concerned that tough sanctions would have a debilitating effect on the country’s economic growth. The Russian public has been lining up at banks and ATMs to withdraw cash since Thursday morning, causing huge queues and reports on social media of ATM machines running out of notes.
According to the Russian Central Bank, Russians withdrew a total of 111 billion rubles (about $1.3 billion) in cash on Thursday alone. Compared to the anti-war demonstrations that took place in Moscow and St. Petersburg on the first day of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which drew tens of thousands of people, the anti-war demonstrations on Sunday were smaller and more dispersed, but their true scale was difficult to assess, and they appeared to gain momentum as the day progressed.
“It is a crime against both Ukraine and Russia,” says the author. I believe it is causing the deaths of both Ukraine and Russia. The demonstration in Irkutsk, Siberia, drew hundreds of people. “I am outraged, I haven’t slept for three nights, and I believe that we must now declare very loudly that we do not want to be killed and that we do not want Ukraine to be killed,” said Olga Mikheeva, who was among those who took to the streets to express their displeasure.
Boris Nemtsov, a prominent Russian opposition activist who was shot and killed near the Kremlin on February 27, 2015, was remembered in large numbers at temporary monuments in Moscow and St. Petersburg. People came with flowers in remembrance of Nikita Nemishov, while others marched with banners condemning the invasion of Ukraine, only to be caught minutes later as they attempted to leave with their banners intact.
- A vocal opponent of the fighting in eastern Ukraine, Nemtsov, one of Russia’s most charismatic opposition figures, was a vocal opponent of the conflict in the region, where Russia-backed separatists have been battling with Ukrainian forces since 2014 in a drawn-out conflict that has claimed the lives of more than 14,000 people.
- The Russian authorities have taken steps in recent days to silence dissenting voices.
- According to Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, “some cultural leaders’ anti-war attitude is “wrong” and “nothing short of a betrayal of your own people.”
- Access to Twitter and Facebook has been blocked, and human rights groups were concerned that similar measures will be implemented against YouTube in the near future.
On Sunday, Russia’s official communications and media agency, Roskomnadzor, asked that Google remove limitations put on YouTube channels controlled by various Russian state media outlets, which Google refused to do. The Network Freedoms human rights organisation pointed out that Facebook’s reluctance to comply with a similar demand earlier this week resulted in the platform’s being banned.
Current Time, a Russian television station created by the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that has been critical of the Kremlin, reported getting a notice from Roskomnadzor on Sunday that it had been blocked from broadcasting.