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Thousands of Russian citizens have taken to the streets in protest against the invasion of Vladimir Putin’s army against the territory of Ukraine. According to local independent organizations, more than 7,600 people have been detained as of Wednesday for demonstrating against the war, including children.
But despite the Russian authorities’ crackdown and the fact that spontaneous demonstrations can result in fines or imprisonment, demonstrations in opposition to the invasion of Ukraine have become massive, according to reports.
According to data of the local organization OVD-Info, on March 2, 346 people were detained in 26 cities of Russia. Some activists were detained for demonstrating alone, handing out anti-war leaflets, colorful ribbons and any other signs or decorations indicating disagreement with the war.
In the city of Ufa, the Federal Security Service raided the house of one man for his participation in the protests. According to the OVD report, the detainee was accused of “calling for extremism” over a message on WhatsApp about the situation in Ukraine. He was arrested and his lawyer has not been able to see him.
This Wednesday, in St. Petersburg, police detained a well-known survivor of the Siege of Leningrad, a 76-year-old woman named Yelena Osipova, for standing peacefully with other protesters holding signs calling for peace in Ukraine.
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who allegedly was poisoned in August 2020 for criticizing the government, wrote a message on his social networks expressing his rejection of the war initiated by Putin against Ukraine and inviting citizens to continue protesting.
“We – Russia – want to be a nation of peace. Alas, few people would call us that now,” he wrote in a first tweet. “But let’s at least not become a nation of frightened silent people,” he continued. “Of cowards who pretend not to notice the aggressive war against Ukraine unleashed by our obviously insane czar.”
Protests in Russia: repression and censorship
As reported by Reuters, a reporter from the independent television channel Dozhd was arrested during the protests, despite having shown police his credentials and wearing a press vest.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that at least 5 journalists are facing charges and dozens have been detained around Russia for covering the protests.
The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, known in Russia as Roskomnadzor, has begun blocking high-profile independent media outlets from broadcasting information about the invasion of Ukraine.
So far, the radio station Echo of Moscow, the TV station TV Dozhd, and the websites such as Current Time, The Village, Krym.Realii, The New Times, DOXA, Taiga.Info have been blocked.
Separately, the Russian State Duma is discussing changes to the Criminal Code that would allow prison sentences of up to 15 years for publishing “false information” about the activities of the Russian military, OVD News reported.
This law could be passed at the upcoming legislative sessions on March 4, 9, and 10, considering that all Russian legislation must go through three readings in the chamber before being passed. In that case, citizens could be criminally prosecuted for any information that does not comply with the state’s official position.