Protests erupted in several Russian cities, including the capital Moscow, after Vladimir Putin announced he was mobilizing troops for the Ukrainian war.
Demonstrators chanted “No war!” and “Send Putin in the trenches!” They took to the streets of the capital, according to Avtozak, a Russian group monitoring the protests, and protests were also reported elsewhere, including in the Siberian city of Ulan-Ude and Tomsk, and Khabarovsk near the Chinese border.
In Novosibirsk, videos showed people chanting: “I don’t want to die for Putin or you!”.There were also reports of protests in Kaliningrad, the Russian region sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania.
While the number of demonstrations was small — unsurprising given the Russian government’s threat to sentence anyone who protests Ukraine’s “special operations” to 15 years in prison — the fact that they happened is noteworthy.
By Wednesday night, reports said more than 700 people had been arrested.This Associated Press At least 12 people were arrested within 15 minutes of protests beginning on the streets of Moscow.
The opposition movement in Wiesner has called for nationwide protests, but it is unclear how many will take action given Russia’s draconian laws prohibiting criticism of the military and war.
“Thousands of Russians – our fathers, brothers and husbands – will be thrown into the meat grinder of war. What will they die for? What will mothers and children cry?” the group said.
From his cell, Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny criticized Putin’s move, warning it would lead to “a huge tragedy”.
Navalny, who has served more than 10 years in prison, said: “It is clear that this evil war is getting worse and worse, and Putin is trying to involve as many people as possible. He is going to smear hundreds of thousands of people in this blood. “
In a speech to the nation, the Russian president ordered as many as 300,000 reservists ready to serve in Russia’s struggle against its neighbors.
Putin also accused the West of considering the use of nuclear weapons against Russia, warning that Moscow would “use all means at our disposal” if threatened.
The protests ensued as thousands tried to flee the country after Putin ordered him to be summoned earlier in the day.
A large number of Russians rush to book outbound one-way tickets while there is still a chance. Flights quickly filled up and airfares skyrocketed, apparently out of concern that Russia’s borders could soon be closed.
Reports of panic spreading among Russians quickly swept social networks. Anti-war groups say limited airfares from Russia are too expensive due to high demand and will soon be unavailable.
Some posts said people had been turned away from Russia’s land border with Georgia, and the Russian state railway company’s website crashed because too many people were looking for their way out of the country.
“I want to say, ‘Freedom in Ukraine.'” An elderly Russian woman who fled the country, calling herself Yulia, said: “Please stop Putin,” she said.