Russian authorities made more than 1,300 protest-related arrests on Wednesday as thousands demonstrated against President Vladimir Putin’s move to call up military reservists into the country’s armed forces, according to the independent Russian human rights group OVD-Info.
Protests broke out in several Russian cities shortly after Putin declared a partial military mobilization on Wednesday, an escalation of Russia’s offensive that is expected to call up as many as 300,000 reservists to active duty in the country’s first military mobilization since World War II.
Verified video footage shows Russian police officers arresting protesters Wednesday by pushing them onto the ground or stuffing them into buses. One video shows a police officer attempting to strike a man in the face outside a building on a busy shopping street; another shows a man being arrested after shouting, “I have no intention of dying for Putin,” to a backdrop of modest applause at a rally in the city of Novosibirsk.
The crackdown on antiwar protests “suggests that there’s broad dissatisfaction with the conflict in Ukraine,” said Robert English, director of Central European studies at the University of Southern California, noting that the protests follow the “crushing of an earlier round of protests in the beginning weeks of the war.”
“The fact that both right-wing, pro-regime figures and left-wing liberal critics are both attacking this brutal war is significant,” English said in an email.
In Russia, dissent could result in heavy prison sentences under a new law that bans criticism of the military and rhetoric calling the war in Ukraine an invasion rather than a “special military operation,” the Kremlin’s term.
In August, former state TV journalist Marina Ovsyannikova was placed under house arrest over a street protest. Earlier, she was fined over an on-air protest opposing the war. And in July, a Russian municipal council member was sentenced to seven years for spreading “knowingly false information” about the Russian military after he openly opposed the war, the Associated Press reported. It was the first reported prison sentence for antiwar remarks since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
As thousands of Russians protested on Wednesday, some eligible reservists had already received written draft notices, and plane tickets quickly sold out as some scrambled for options to exit the country.
On Telegram, OVD-Info shared a photo of an apparent draft notice dated Sept. 22, stating that it was handed to an individual who had been detained for protesting. The Washington Post could not verify the authenticity of the notice.
Russia has made at least 16,437 arrests related to antiwar protests in the first six months of the war, according to OVD-Info, and at least 224 people have become defendants in criminal antiwar cases, it said.