More Than 4,000 Russians Arrested Sunday Over Ukraine Invasion Protests, Watchdog Says

Russian authorities arrested more than 4,300 protesters on Sunday who were demonstrating against the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, according to an independent watchdog group.

OVD-Info, an organization that tracks the arrest of demonstrators, said thousands of Russians turned out on Sunday to oppose the Kremlin’s military action in Ukraine. At least 4,357 people were arrested in 56 cities across the country, and could face years in jail.

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently signed a new law that broadly criminalizes the spreading of information that goes against the Kremlin’s account of the incursion. The law effectively prohibits calling the military action in Ukraine a “war” or an “invasion.” Those found violating it, including protesters, can face up to 15 years in prison.

Russia’s interior ministry confirmed that it had arrested thousands of people Sunday, including about 1,700 in Moscow and 750 in St. Petersburg.

OVD-Info said more than 13,000 people have been arrested in the country since demonstrations began, including journalists and children.

A Russian police officer detain a woman holding the poster reads: "I do not want to kill anyone" during an unsanctioned protest rally against the military invasion on Ukraine.
A Russian police officer detain a woman holding the poster reads: “I do not want to kill anyone” during an unsanctioned protest rally against the military invasion on Ukraine.

Konstantin Zavrazhin via Getty Images

“The screws are being fully tightened ― essentially we are witnessing military censorship,” Maria Kuznetsova, a spokesman for OVD-Info, told Reuters. She added that the protests this weekend were “rather big” and had spread to cities in Siberia “where we only rarely such such numbers of arrests.”

In some videos posted to social media, protesters could be heard chanting “No to War!” in Moscow and St. Petersburg, statements that would appear to violate Putin’s new legislation.

OVD-Info also said there were reports of serious violence at police stations, including detainees who were beaten, kicked and dragged by their hair.

The law against “fake news” has already prompted some companies to limit access to Russian users. Just this weekend, TikTok announced it would ban all livestreaming and content creation in Russia while it reviews the implications of the law.

Russia also upped its censorship efforts by blocking Facebook and restricting Twitter for tens of millions of people.

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