‘Ukraine is not our enemy’: In Russia, hundreds arrested in anti-war protests

Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in the early hours of February 24, thousands of Russians have taken to the streets to protest the war. Pictures taken by civilians show crowds of peaceful protesters being arrested by police. More than 1,500 people have been arrested, according to the independent outlet OVD-News.

French journalist Benoit Vitkin posted a video on Twitter showing hundreds of people protesting in St Petersburg. Surrounded by police cars, they chanted “No to war!”

Saint-Petersbourg ce soir, “non à la guerre”. C’est sans doute peu vu l’ampleur de ce qui est en train de se passer, mais pour les normes russes, c’est beaucoup. pic.twitter.com/Mt8MZ11aUk

– Benoît Vitkine (benvtk) February 24, 2022 This video was filmed in St. Petersburg on February 24, 2022. There are several videos of the arrests, many of them violent, taken on the evening of February 24.

В ентре Петербурга – по-прежнему несколько сотен человек. зисло задержанных, по данным «-инфо» (объявлен «иноагентом»), превышает триста человек.

идео: «Холод» pic.twitter.com/FqSkkOJ1v0

– Журнал Холод (holodmedia) February 24, 2022 This video posted by independent media outlet Kholod on Twitter shows a person violently arrested by the police in St. Petersburg on February 24, 2022. Crowds of people gather in major Russian cities, including St. Petersburg and Moscow, but also in Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk, in Siberia. These Russian citizens expressed their opposition to President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

People are also starting to show signs of resistance on social media. The hashtag #нетвойне (“No to war” in Russian) has been a trend in Russia since February 24.

Photographer Vitaly Malyshev filmed the protests in Moscow for the Russian telegram channel Avtozaklive, which documents the arrests at rallies around Russia: He recounted the tense atmosphere marked by large-scale arrests:

There was a feeling of fear. The police were rushing into the crowd in small groups to pull out some protesters at random. More police cars were arriving constantly. If someone raised a poster during the protest, they would be arrested in less than a minute.

This video posted on the Avtozaklive Telegram channel shows police officers attacking protesters who held a banner. Its text was “Peace to Ukraine, freedom to Russia.”

By the afternoon, a few solitary protesters appeared on Pushkinskaya Square and in front of the Presidential Administration Building in Moscow, carrying posters bearing anti-war sentiments. Some of them were arrested on the spot.

A woman was arrested standing alone on Pushkinskaya Square in Moscow on February 24. A banner carrying it read: “No to war! We are with Ukraine.”

Irina Nazarova was among the protesters in St Petersburg, “I can’t comfortably stay at home while our neighbors have to hide in the subway to avoid bombs.” She witnessed several harsh arrests, although the people she saw were demonstrating peacefully.

There were a lot of young people. We were singing Ukrainian songs and chanting “Ukraine is not our enemy!” and “No to war!”. The cars that passed us were honking their horns in support.

Yesterday, we were improvising because not everyone knew there would be demonstrations. I think more and more people are going to start taking to the streets. All my acquaintances and colleagues in St. Petersburg are against the war and are shocked by what is happening. Putin says the Russians fully support him, but he has not asked for our opinion. I can’t comfortably stay home while our neighbors have to hide in the subway to avoid the bombs, dying because of Russian soldiers.

A number of Russian celebrities, broadcasters and musicians also denounced the war in Ukraine. More than 100 Russian journalists signed a petition to demand an end to the military invasion.

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