Russians hold anti-war rallies amid ominous threats by Putin

Russians Hold Anti-War Rallies Amid Ominous Threats By Putin
A man holds a poster which reads 'No war' as people lay flowers near where Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was gunned down in Moscow, Russia, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Dasha Litvinova, Associated Press

From Moscow to Siberia, Russian anti-war activists have taken to the streets again to protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, despite the arrests of hundreds of protesters each day by police.

Demonstrators held pickets and marched in city centres, chanting “No to war!” as President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian nuclear deterrent to be put on high alert, upping the ante in the Kremlin’s stand-off with the West and stoking fears of a nuclear war.


“I have two sons and I don’t want to give them to that bloody monster. War is a tragedy for all of us,” 48-year-old Dmitri Maltsev, who joined a rally in St Petersburg, told the Associated Press.

Protests against the invasion started on Thursday in Russia and have continued daily ever since, even as Russian police have moved swiftly to crack down on the rallies and detain protesters.

Police detain a demonstrator during a protest against Russia’s attack on Ukraine in St Petersburg, Russia
Police detain a demonstrator during a protest against Russia’s attack on Ukraine in St Petersburg, Russia (Dmitri Lovetsky/AP)


The Kremlin has sought to downplay the protests, insisting that a much broader share of Russians support the assault on Ukraine.

In St Petersburg, where several hundred gathered in the city centre, police in full riot gear were grabbing one protester after another and dragging some into police vans, even though the demonstration was peaceful.

Footage from Moscow showed police throwing several female protesters on the ground before dragging them away.

According to the OVD-Info rights group that tracks political arrests, by Sunday evening police had detained at least 1,474 Russians in 45 cities over anti-war demonstrations that day.


Four days into the fighting that has killed scores, Mr Putin raised the stakes dramatically on Sunday, ordering Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert, citing Western countries “taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic sphere” and after “top officials from leading Nato members made aggressive statements regarding our country”.

The day before, the US and its European allies warned that the coming round of sanctions could include freezing hard currency reserves of Russia’s Central Bank and cutting Russia off from Swift international payment system.

Police detain a demonstrator with a poster which reads 'The war with Ukraine is a shame and a crime' during an action against Russia’s attack on Ukraine in Omsk, Russia
Police detain a demonstrator with a poster which reads ‘The war with Ukraine is a shame and a crime’ in Omsk, Russia (Evgeniy Sofiychuk/AP)


The unprecedented move could quickly plunge the Russian economy into chaos.

Ordinary Russians fear that stiff sanctions will deliver a crippling blow to the country’s economy.

Since Thursday, Russians have been flocking to banks and ATMs to withdraw cash, creating long lines, with reports appearing on social media about ATM machines running out of notes.

According to Russia’s Central Bank, on Thursday alone Russians withdrew 111 billion roubles (£1 billion) in cash.


The anti-war protests on Sunday appeared smaller and more scattered than the ones that took place on the first day of Russia’s attack in Ukraine, when thousands of people rallied in Moscow and St Petersburg, but their true scale was hard to assess and they seemed to pick up speed as the day went on.

“It is a crime both against Ukraine and Russia. I think it is killing both Ukraine and Russia. I am outraged, I haven’t slept for three nights, and I think we must now declare very loudly that we don’t want to be killed and don’t want Ukraine to be killed,” said Olga Mikheeva, who protested in the Siberian city of Irkutsk.

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