According to an independent Russian-based protest monitor, more than 559 people were detained in 21 locations around Russia on Sunday during protests against President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
People were detained at rallies in Vladivostok, a Russian Pacific port city, and Irkutsk, a Siberian city, according to the OVD-Info protest monitoring group. Activists from the opposition shared videos of protests in other cities.
The information could not be independently verified by Reuters. Police spokespeople in Vladivostok and Irkutsk could not be reached by Reuters. The Russian interior ministry did not respond to requests for comment.
On Saturday, the interior ministry issued a warning that any attempt to arrange unlicensed protests would be stopped and the organizers held accountable.
A video uploaded on social media showed a demonstrator on a square in Khabarovsk’s far eastern city shouting “No to war – how are you not ashamed?” before being taken by two police officers.
Police in Khabarovsk utilized loudspeakers to remind a small number of protesters: “Respected citizens, you are participating in an unofficial public gathering. We expect you to scatter.”
The post could not be independently verified by Reuters.
Alexei Navalny, a jailed Kremlin opponent, has called for rallies across Russia and the rest of the world on Sunday against Russia’s invasion, which began on February 24.
According to videos released on social media, over 2,000 people joined an anti-war protest in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city. The posts could not be independently verified by Reuters.
While waving Ukrainian flags, the throng chanted slogans such as “No to war” and “Putin is a dickhead.”
Activists placed blue and yellow balloons in the hand of a Lenin statue that towered over the rally’s modest square.
“Russia today signifies war for many people because of Putin,” Navalny stated on Friday. “That is incorrect: Putin, not Russia, was the one who attacked Ukraine.”
Putin, Russia’s president since 1999, has ordered a “special military operation” to protect Russian-speaking minorities in Ukraine from persecution and to prevent the US from exploiting Ukraine to threaten Russia.
The West has dismissed his claims as a spurious excuse for war and enacted sanctions aimed at crippling Russia’s economy. Ukraine has received armaments from the United States, the United Kingdom, and a few other NATO countries.
According to Moscow-based pollsters, Putin’s approval ratings have risen in Russia since the invasion.
According to state pollster VsTIOM, Putin’s approval rating increased 6 percentage points to 70% in the week ending February 27. Putin’s approval rating rose 7 percentage points to 71 percent in the same week, according to the FOM pollster, which conducts research for the Kremlin.