In response to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian citizens have taken to the streets across Russia to speak out against the war. Protests can be seen in over 50 cities across Russia as protestors hold up signs and chant the same line: “Нет войне,” meaning “No to war.”
Similar to past protests in Russia, arbitrary arrests and beatings from the police are widespread. Russian law entails that organized demonstrations must apply for a permit 10 to 15 days before the intended date. Police therefore have free rein to arrest peaceful protestors regardless of their actions at demonstrations as these protests are technically unauthorized and illegal. Over 5,000 protestors have been arrested, and videos online show brutal acts by Russian police detaining protestors.
Russian authorities have blocked the use of Facebook and Twitter to obstruct communication among protestors and to stop the spread of unfavorable news on the Ukrainian invasion. Roskomnadzor, Russia’s telecommunications regulator, announced that the spread of “false” or “unverified” information would be blocked and only information from official sources could be used to report on Ukrainian. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused Facebook of committing human rights violations after the social media platform partially restricted access to the profiles of the Russian government and certain state-owned media companies.
On February 21, Politico Europe interviewed a Russian woman detained during the demonstrations in St. Petersburg. “There were 15 of us,” she said. “They took away our phones and held us in an enclosed space for 13 hours. It was too small for all of us to be able to sit at the same time, so many had to stand.” Some police stations in Russia have been shut down, enacting “Fortress Protocol”—a tactic used when an attack on the station is deemed imminent that denies individuals detained during protests access to lawyers.
Despite the sheer size of the protests, President Putin has made no comment on the outrage towards his decision to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
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