“Why be thrown into the meat grinder of war?”: the protests in Russia against the mobilization in Ukraine leave a thousand detainees | International

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Shortly after Vladimir Putin decreed a partial mobilization of the Russian population to go to fight in Ukraine, the opposition movement Vesná called protests in all the cities of the country. Hundreds of citizens braved the risk of demonstrating in Russia, which can involve prison sentences and being sent to the front, and took to the streets to show their anger at the Kremlin’s decision. The police have arrested a thousand people in 36 locations, according to data from the independent organization OVD-Info. In Moscow, the march brought together more than a thousand demonstrators.

With a play on words in Russian, the organizers had replaced the word mobilization with grave on their poster. “Our fathers, brothers and husbands will be thrown into the meat grinder of war. Why will they die? Why will mothers and children shed tears? For Putin’s palace?” the group denounced on social media.

strong repression

Protesters in Russia routinely face heavy repression, which has been reinforced in protests against the crackdown in Ukraine. Now, those who dare to speak out against the Kremlin’s decisions are also facing the new law on discrediting the actions of the armed forces in Ukraine. These actions are usually settled with a fine, although the repetition of infractions or some specific cases can lead to prison sentences of between three and 10 years. Up to 15 prison sentences are contemplated if the judge considers that the detainee puts the army at risk, although this extreme has not yet been reached. Figures close to the Kremlin have also leaked that the detained protesters could be included in the rounds of mobilizations.

The march toured the tourist Arbat street in Moscow, which became a mousetrap, where a strong police deployment arrested dozens of citizens. “Not to the war!” and “shame!” they chanted.

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Arrests of protesters in Moscow. Video: JGC

“We don’t need any war, you are wonderful,” an elderly woman applauded the huge column that descended screaming towards the headquarters of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Its head, Sergei Lavrov, represented his country on Wednesday in New York before the international community at the UN General Assembly, just the day its president had threatened to use nuclear weapons if Ukrainian troops advance in their recovery of the territory taken by Moscow.

“Do you know why we protest, kid?”, a middle-aged protester rebuked a policeman. The deployment of the security forces was massive. Agents from the Ministry of the Interior and Rosgvardia — the National Guard, the president’s personal army — were monitoring the entire center of Moscow on Wednesday, from Pushkinskaya Square, the epicenter of the protests in the past, to Red Square.

Some of the dozens of people arrested were carried away. Young and old, parents and grandparents, showed their indignation at a forced mobilization that, according to the Ministry of Defense, will bring at least 300,000 compatriots, or them, to the front.

During the protests, the other Russia, the one that supports the Kremlin’s offensive, was also heard. One young man shouted “traitors” at the protesters, and another was led away by his partner after confronting critics.

The protests took place in a street where t-shirts with the z’s and u’s are sold, used by the armed forces in their war against Ukraine and which have become a symbol of the Russian offensive. The march barely lasted an hour. After the intervention of the police, the road was once again taken by pedestrians. Many of them were demonstrators minutes before they fell silent again so as not to be arrested.

In the days after February 24, when Putin ordered an attack on Ukraine, hundreds of people defied the authorities and demonstrated against the war. Expressions of discontent were harshly repressed and some 15,000 people face fines or jail terms. Since those first days of March, protests like the ones on Wednesday had not been called again.

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