Tasya, 19, stood with her friends on a cold morning in St. Petersburg as they joined protesters’ chants against the Russian invasion of Ukraine: “Nyet Voine!” (“No to War!”).
“It’s always safer to stand together with others … to look over your shoulder, in case you need to run,” said Tasya, who asked that her last name not be used for her safety. At some point, Tasya said her friends left the protest to go home or somewhere else to warm up, leaving her standing alone in the street.
“Then a group of cops walked past me … and suddenly one of them looked at me and then they turned around, walked towards me and detained me,” she said of the February 24 protest.
Protests are continuing across Russia as young citizens, along with middle-age and even retired people, take to the streets to speak out against a military conflict ordered by their President — a decision in which, they claim, they had no say.
Now, they are finding their voice. But Russian authorities are intent on shutting down any public dissent against the attack on Ukraine. Police clamp down on demonstrations almost as quickly as they pop up, dragging some protesters away and roughing up others.
Police in St. Petersburg arrested at least 350 anti-war protesters on Wednesday, taking the total number of protesters detained or arrested to 7,624 since the invasion began, according to an independent organization that tracks human rights violations in Russia.
Intellectuals speak out: Members of Russia’s “intelligentsia” — academics, writers, journalists and others — have issued public appeals decrying the war, including a rare “open letter” to Putin signed by 1,200 students, faculty and staff of MGIMO University, the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations, affiliated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which produces most of Russia’s government and foreign service elite.
The signers proclaim they are “categorically against the Russian Federation’s military actions in Ukraine.”
“We consider it morally unacceptable to stay on the sidelines and keep silent when people are dying in a neighboring state. They are dying through the fault of those who preferred weapons instead of peaceful diplomacy,” the letter says.
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Live updates: Russia invades Ukraine