(Moscow) In Moscow as in St. Petersburg, thousands of Russians demonstrated to protest against the invasion of Ukraine launched Thursday by President Vladimir Putin, banned rallies which resulted in numerous arrests.
According to the NGO OVD-Info, more than 1,700 people were arrested in several Russian cities, more than half of them in Moscow alone.
On Pushkin Square, in the heart of the capital, AFP witnessed the arrest of dozens of people who chanted “No to war! “.
Among the approximately 2,000 people who came to Moscow to denounce the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, some have relatives in this country.
“My aunt lives in Ukraine, I’m afraid for her,” says Tatiana, an 18-year-old student from Moscow, who prefers not to mention her last name to avoid getting in trouble with the authorities.
“I am in shock, my relatives live in Ukraine. What can I tell them on the phone? “Hold on”? I can’t stay in my room, I want to see other people who are against the war, who think like me,” says Anastasia Nestoulia.
Despite the brutal repression that has befallen civil society, with a particularly dark year 2021, several groups of protesters had gathered in the afternoon and early evening in Moscow.
In St. Petersburg, among the thousand demonstrators, is Daria Gazmanova, a 20-year-old student. She is overwhelmed.
“I’m here because I don’t want to live in an aggressive country,” she says.
The Russian authorities had promised Thursday to suppress any “unauthorized” demonstration organized in the country against the war in Ukraine.
Pushkin Square, adjoining the main Tverskaya Avenue which descends to the Kremlin, was squared by the police, following a call on social networks.
The Interior Ministry, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Investigative Committee – the body responsible for the main criminal investigations – had all warned the Russians against any protest action.
The Investigative Committee pointed out that participants in rallies over “the tense foreign policy situation” or clashes faced prosecution.
“We remind you that calls to participate and direct participation in such unauthorized actions carry serious legal consequences,” he warned.
” That makes me sick ”
Even outside the demonstrations, most Russians interviewed by AFP said they were against this war, even if some gave their support to President Putin.
“He wants to help the Russian people and these pro-Russian separatist republics in eastern Ukraine whose independence Mr. Putin recognized on Monday, pleads Galina Samoilenko, 70.
But while the West has announced heavy economic sanctions to punish Moscow, Elena, a 23-year-old consultant, wonders if the Russians will manage “to survive this crisis”.
“No one in their right mind would want a war,” protests Victor Antipov, a 54-year-old resident of St. Petersburg, who feels that Russian leaders “don’t think long term”.
Igor Kharitonov, a 20-year-old architecture student, refused to watch the speech in which Mr Putin announced the start of military operations in Ukraine on Thursday morning.
“War makes me sick,” he says.