Ukraine invasion: How many anti-war protesters have been arrested in Russia?

Under new legislation, anti-war protesters in Russia can be jailed for up to 15 years

Rory Sullivan
Tuesday 08 March 2022 21:51 GMT
Pussy Riot founder heralds huge anti-war movement in Russia: 'Much bigger than you can see'
Leer en Español

A total of 12,700 people have been detained in Russia over the last 13 days during anti-war protests, the UN has confirmed.

Around a third of this number were arrested during large-scale demonstrations across Russia on Sunday. The OVD-Info protest monitoring group said more than 4,300 were taken into custody that day in 56 different cities, while the Russian interior minister put the figure at 3,500.

A total of 1,700 people were arrested in Moscow and another 750 in St Petersburg on Sunday, according to the state-run Tass news agency.

“The screws are being fully tightened - essentially we are witnessing military censorship,” Maria Kuznetsova, OVD-Info’s spokesperson, said.

In an attempt to deter public protests, the Kremlin introduced a law last week that outlaws the spreading of “fake news” about the Russian military. Under the legislation, anti-war protesters can be jailed for up to 15 years.

A second law that criminalises independent war reporting was also enacted on the same day.

An anti-war demonstrator is detained in St Petersburg, Russia, on 8 March

“These new laws are part of Russia’s ruthless effort to suppress all dissent and make sure the population does not have access to any information that contradicts the Kremlin’s narrative about the invasion of Ukraine,” Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said.

The UN also stressed that public freedoms were shrinking in Russia as Vladimir Putin tries to dominate the narrative around Russia’s attack against Ukraine, banning people from using the words “war” and “invasion” to describe it.

“The ability to criticise public policy in Russia, particularly its invasion of Ukraine, is narrowing, with some 12,700 people unlawfully detained in anti-war protests,” the UN’s most senior human rights official said on Tuesday.

"I remain concerned about the use of repressive legislation that impedes the exercise of civil and political rights and criminalising non-violent behaviour," Michelle Bachelet added.

Riot police officers detain a man during a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine in central Moscow

Commentators like the Kremlin critic Nadya Tolokonnikova, who co-founded the protest punk rock group Pussy Riot, said the number of Russians who opposed Putin’s war was high.

A poll released by the imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny appeared to confirm this view. It found that 36 per cent of Russians blamed their country for the war on 3 March, more than twice the percentage that did so on 25 February, the day after the invasion started.

In recent days, the internet has been awash with videos of Russians attending rallies against the invasion of Ukraine.

One of the most notable clips shows a 77-year-old activist being arrested by security forces for holding two anti-war placards encouraging soldiers to stop fighting.

“What sort of government is scared of a little old lady holding placards?” one social media user wrote in response.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in