Protests have erupted in several Russian cities, including the capital Moscow, after Vladimir Putin announced the deployment of troops to fight in Ukraine.
Demonstrators chanting “No war!” and “Send Putin to the trenches!” Protests took to the streets in the capital and were reported elsewhere, including in the Siberian cities of Ulan-Ude and Tomsk, as well as Khabarovsk near the Chinese border, according to Avtozak, a Russian group that monitors protests.
In Novosibirsk, the video shows people chanting: “I don’t want to die for Putin or for you!”. Protests were also reported in Kaliningrad, a Russian region between Poland and Lithuania
Although the protests were few in number – unsurprisingly the Russian government has threatened 15-year prison terms for protesting against “special operations” in Ukraine – those that did take place were significant.
More than 700 people were reported to have been arrested as of Wednesday evening. The Assistant Press At least a dozen people were arrested within 15 minutes of the protests starting on the streets of Moscow.
The anti-Vesna movement has called for nationwide protests, though it’s unclear how many will act because of Russia’s strict laws against criticizing the military and the war.
“Thousands of Russian men – our fathers, brothers and husbands – will be thrown into the meat grinder of war. What will they die for? What will mothers and children cry for? The group said.
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny criticized Putin’s move from prison, warning it would lead to a “huge tragedy”.
Navalny, who is serving more than 10 years in prison, said: “It is clear that the criminal war is getting worse, deeper and Putin is trying to involve as many people as possible in it. He wants to stain millions of people in this blood.”
In an address to the nation, the Russian president ordered nearly 300,000 military reservists to be ready to serve in his country’s warring campaign against its neighbor.
Mr Putin also accused the West of considering using nuclear weapons against Russia and warned Moscow would “use all means at our disposal” if threatened.
The protests peaked after thousands tried to flee the country after Putin ordered his call-up the previous day.
Huge numbers of Russians rush to book one-way tickets out of the country while they still can. Flights filled up quickly and ticket prices skyrocketed, apparently due to fears that Russia’s borders could soon be closed.
News of panic spreading among Russians soon flooded social networks. Anti-war groups said the limited number of plane tickets out of Russia reached exorbitant prices due to high demand and quickly became unavailable.
Some posts alleged that people had already been turned away from Russia’s land border with Georgia and that the website of the state-run Russian Railways Company was down as many people checked ways to get out of the country.
An elderly Russian woman who fled the country, who identified herself as Yulia, said: “I want to say, ‘Freedom of Ukraine.’ Please, someone stop Putin,” he said.