Russians demonstrated in dozens of cities against Putin’s military plan: NPR


Police arrested a man in Moscow on Saturday following calls to protest against the announcement of the military plan.

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Russians demonstrated in dozens of cities against Putin's military plan: NPR

Police arrested a man in Moscow on Saturday following calls to protest against the announcement of the military plan.

AFP via Getty Images

MOSCOW — Russians have again protested President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recruit additional forces for his troubled military operation in Ukraine — staging scattered protests in dozens of cities across Russia on Saturday despite threats of arrest and a heavy police presence.

By nightfall, more than 700 people had been arrested across the country, with the majority of arrests in Moscow and St. Petersburg, according to human rights watchdog group OVD-INFO.

The protests came as Russians continued to grapple with the impact of a Kremlin order to call up 300,000 more troops for the military campaign – a move President Putin called a “partial mobilization”.

“I haven’t heard the word ‘war’ come out of Putin’s mouth. And if there is no war, how can we have a mobilization?” said Natalya Zurina, a retired college professor, in an interview with NPR.

“He’s calling on our young boys to die for nothing. I just couldn’t stay home,” Zurina added.

Confusion over who would be called has led to an exodus of young men out of Russia, with long queues forming at Russian borders and plane tickets out of the country hard to come by.

Protests against the proposed effort earlier in the week led to more than 1,300 arrests, according to rights groups.

On a rainy Saturday in Moscow, police and OMON riot troops appeared well positioned ahead of a late afternoon protest at a location chosen by organizers at the last moment.

“Putin said he would not change the constitution. He changed the constitution. Putin said there would be no mobilization and yet here we are,” said a young man in his 20s. years at NPR during the protest in Moscow.

He didn’t get a chance to give his name before OMON troops suddenly approached, inspected his documents and took him away.

Anastasia, a designer who declined to give her last name out of concern for her safety, said she came to see if she was alone in her anger over Putin’s decision to send additional troops into a conflict that ‘she never backed.

“I have two loved ones directly impacted by this decision, but fortunately they are now in the process of leaving the country,” she told NPR.

“It’s a tragedy what is happening,” she added in tears.

Russians demonstrated in dozens of cities against Putin's military plan: NPR

Police arrest a man in Moscow on Saturday.

AFP via Getty Images


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AFP via Getty Images

Russians demonstrated in dozens of cities against Putin's military plan: NPR

Police arrest a man in Moscow on Saturday.

AFP via Getty Images

NPR witnessed several dozen arrests as police checked documents and apparently made random arrests.

“I was just coming out of the subway!” shouted a man as he was thrown into the side of a police van.

Videos online later showed riot troops appearing to detain people in a tourist park that overlooks the Kremlin – including a man wearing a food delivery uniform.

There were also scenes of violence: In St Petersburg, video shared online showed riot police punching a young protester in the head as he lay on the ground.

In Moscow, video showed a woman’s screams coming from inside a police van before the car’s engine drowned out her cries. (NPR has not independently verified the authenticity of the videos.)

The arrests also came as the government raised the consequences of dissent.

On Saturday, the Russian leader signed into law a bill that now criminalizes refusing to serve in the military with up to 10 years in prison.

The move capped a week in which the measure rushed through the lower and upper houses of Russia’s parliament.


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