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More than 4,300 arrested in anti-war protests in Russia

Anti-war protest after Russia's invasion of Ukraine
A person is arrested during an anti-war protest following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Yekaterinburg, Russia, March 6, 2022. Handout via REUTERS THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALE. NO ARCHIVES

March 6, 2022

LONDON (Reuters) – Police arrested more than 4,300 people during Russia-wide protests against President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on Sunday, according to an independent protest monitoring group.

Thousands of protesters shouted “No to the war!” and “Shame on you!” according to videos posted by opposition activists and bloggers on social media.

Dozens of protesters in the Ural city of Yekaterinburg were arrested. There it was shown how a protester was beaten on the ground by police officers in riot gear. A mural in the city depicting President Vladimir Putin has been defaced.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the footage and photos posted on social media. Russia’s Interior Ministry earlier said police arrested around 3,500 people, including 1,700 in Moscow, 750 in St. Petersburg and 1,061 in other cities.

According to the Interior Ministry, 5,200 people took part in the protests. Protest monitoring group OVD-Info said it documented the detention of at least 4,366 people in 56 different cities.

“The screws are being fully tightened – basically we are witnessing military censorship,” Maria Kuznetsova, spokeswoman for OVD-Info, said by phone from Tbilisi.

“We’re seeing pretty big protests today, even in Siberian cities where we’ve rarely seen such numbers of arrests.”

The last Russian protest with a similar number of arrests was in January 2021, when thousands called for the release of opposition leader Alexei Navalny after he was arrested on his return from Germany, where he was recovering from nerve agent poisoning.

Some state-controlled Russian media ran brief reports on Sunday’s protests, but they didn’t feature high in the newscasts.

Russia’s RIA news agency said Moscow’s Manezhnaya Square, next to the Kremlin, was “liberated” by police who had arrested some participants in an unauthorized protest against the military operation in Ukraine.

CHURCH SUPPORT

RIA also showed footage of what appeared to be Kremlin supporters driving down the embankment in Moscow with Russian flags showing the “Z” and “V” markings used by Russian forces on tanks operating in Ukraine.

Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, said Russian values ​​are being tested by the West, which offers only excessive consumption and the illusion of freedom.

Putin, Russia’s supreme leader since 1999, calls the invasion, which launched on February 24, a “special military operation”. He says it aims to defend Ukraine’s Russian-speaking communities from persecution and prevent the United States from using Ukraine to threaten Russia.

The West has dismissed its arguments as an unfounded pretext for war and imposed sanctions aimed at crippling Russia’s economy. The United States, Britain and some other NATO members have supplied arms to Ukraine.

Navalny had called for protests against the invasion across Russia and the rest of the world on Sunday.

According to videos posted on social media, about 2,000 people took part in an anti-war protest in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty. Reuters was unable to independently verify the posts.

The crowd chanted slogans like “No to war!” and obscenities against Putin while he waved Ukrainian flags.

Blue and yellow balloons were placed in the hand of a statue of Lenin that towers over the small square where the rally was held.

Russian state polling firm VTsIOM said Putin’s approval rating rose 6 percentage points to 70% in the week ended February 27. FOM, which conducts research for the Kremlin, said its rating rose 7 percentage points to 71% over the same period.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Catherine Evans, Frances Kerry, William Maclean and Kevin Liffey)

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Bobby Allyn

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