Thousands of people have taken to the streets of cities across Russia in open protest of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine—from Kaliningrad in the west to Vladivostok in the east. What began as isolated “solo pickets”—essentially the only legal form of public protest in Russia—quickly snowballed into mass unpermitted marches and rallies. The largest demonstrations were reported from Moscow and St Petersburg, where they were met with riot police in full body armor. In Moscow, Red Square was closed off by military vehicles, preventing protesters from marching on the seat of government power. Independent monitoring group OVD-Info counted some 1,800 protesters arrested by security forces in some 60 cities, including Tyumen, Kazan, Rostov-on-Don, Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk and Yekaterinburg. Popular slogans include “No to war” and “Hands off Ukraine.” Many demonstrators were heard to shout “Arrest Putin, not me!” as they were dragged away by police. (Euronews, Moscow Times, Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, LBC, CBC, NYT, OVD-Info, OVD-Info)
One prominent opposition activist who called for anti-war protests was detained by police at her home in Moscow Feb. 24. Marina Litvinovich had just posted a video statement on Facebook, saying: “I know that many of you right now feel desperate, powerless, and ashamed over the attack by Vladimir Putin on the friendly people of Ukraine. But I call on you not to despair, and to come out to the central squares of your cities at 7 PM today and clearly and explicitly say that we, the people of Russia, are against the war unleashed by Putin.” (Reuters, RFE/RL)
Russian authorities have since then restricted access to Facebook, with communications regulator Roskomnadzor accusing the network of “censorship” and violating “the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens.” Facebook said it had refused Russian demands to stop fact-checking and labelling of content from state-controlled news sources. (BBC News)
The popular Russian rap artist Miron Fyodorov, known by his stage name Oxxxymiron, announced that he has canceled six sold-out concerts in Moscow and St. Petersburg in protest of the war. “I cannot entertain you when Russian missiles are falling on Ukraine,” he said in a statement on his Instagram page. “When residents of Kyiv are forced to hide in basements and in the metro, while people are dying.” He called upon Russians to mount an anti-war movement akin to the US movement against the war in Vietnam in the 1960s. (Pitchfork, NYT)
Before the invasion actually began, there had been few voices of anti-war dissent in Russia, a testament to the current atmosphere of totalizing repression in Russia.
Photo of St Petersburg protest: OVD-Info