More than 1,300 people have been arrested in demonstrations across Russia against President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of a partial mobilization of civilians to fight in Ukraine, a police monitoring group said.
Monitoring group OVD-Info counted at least 1,332 people detained at rallies in 38 different cities across the country after Putin’s morning address to the nation on Wednesday.
The protests were the largest in Russia since the demonstrations that erupted following the announcement of Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine in February.
AFP journalists in Moscow said police had detained at least 50 people in riot gear.
In Saint Petersburg, AFP reporters saw police cornering and detaining a small group of protesters one by one, carrying them onto a bus.
The demonstrators were chanting: “No to mobilization!”
Russian police officers, one of whom has the letter “Z” on his uniform, a symbol of support for the military invasion of Ukraine, arrest a man at an anti-war protest in Moscow. attributed to him: Getty Images
Demonstrator Vasily Fedorov said, a student wearing a pacifist symbol on his phone was issued.
“I came to say that I am against war and mobilization,” student Oksana Sidorenko told AFP.
“Why are they deciding my future for me? I am afraid for myself and my brother,” she added.
An activist holds an anti-mobilization poster during an unauthorized protest rally on September 21, 2022, in Moscow, Russia. The sign “Net mogilizacii” written in Cyrillic means “forbidden to burial”. attributed to him: Getty Images
Alina Skvortsova, 20, said she hoped the Russians would soon understand the nature of the Kremlin’s offensive in neighboring Ukraine.
“Once they really understood, they would take to the street, despite the fear,” she said.
The Interfax news agency quoted the Russian Interior Ministry as saying it had thwarted attempts to “organize unauthorized gatherings”.
She added that all demonstrations were stopped, and the police arrested those who committed “violations” and kept them away pending investigation and prosecution.
Russia considers many of the former conscripts to be reservists, and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the country would initially mobilize about 300,000 reservists from a potential pool of 25 million.
Putin, in a televised address, warned that Moscow would use all available military means in Ukraine, but the “partial mobilization” decree provided no clue as to who would be summoned.
Flights outside of Russia were almost completely booked this week, according to airline and travel agent data on Wednesday, in what appears to be a mass exodus of people unwilling to join the conflict.
Volodymyr Zelensky urges the world to punish Russia
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged world leaders to strip Russia of its vote in international institutions and its veto power in the United Nations Security Council, saying aggressors need to be punished and impeached.
Zelensky began his video address to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the partial mobilization of reservists.
“As long as the aggressor is a party to the decision-making process of international organizations, it must be isolated from it,” Zelensky said.
As a permanent member of its most powerful entity, the Security Council, Russia was able to veto a demand to halt its attack on Ukraine days after it began.
Putin’s decree on Wednesday on partial mobilization was less specific. Officials said that up to 300,000 reservists could be used.
Australia condemns nuclear threat of Vladimir Putin
Australia described the Russian president’s threats to use nuclear weapons as irresponsible and irresponsible.
President Vladimir Putin has warned the West about its willingness to use Russia’s massive nuclear arsenal to defend its territory, saying: “It’s not a hoax.”
Secretary of State Penny Wong called on Russia to withdraw from Ukraine.
“We have seen Mr. Putin make threats to use all means at his disposal,” Senator Wong told reporters in New York.
“These threats are unimaginable and irresponsible. Claims to defend Russia’s territorial integrity are not true.”
The opposition’s foreign affairs spokesman, Simon Birmingham, called on the government to provide urgent assistance to Ukraine, rejecting the Russian president’s statements.
“He continues to base his allegations regarding the illegal and immoral Russian invasion of Ukraine on lies,” he told ABC.
“It is in the interest of all nations, big or small, or all over the world to see Ukraine succeed in defending its sovereignty.”
What was the US reaction to Vladimir Putin’s speech?
US President Joe Biden accused Putin of “shamelessly” violating the UN Charter and criticized him for threatening to use nuclear weapons, warning that “nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought.”
“Only today, President Putin made public nuclear threats against Europe,” Biden said in his address to the United Nations General Assembly, criticizing Putin’s “irresponsible” stance.
President Putin’s mobilization order came when 10 prisoners of war – including two from the US and five from the UK – were released as part of an exchange between Russia and Ukraine.
But the diplomatic breakthrough did little to bring the temperature down as Western leaders expressed anger over Putin’s latest moves – and Moscow’s plan to hold referendums on annexation this week in Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine.
Donetsk and Lugansk in the east and Kherson and Zaporizhia in the south are holding five-day elections starting on Friday – raising the stakes in the conflict by allowing Moscow to accuse Ukraine of attacking Russia’s supposed mainland.
On the sidelines of the UN meeting, French President Emmanuel Macron urged the world to “exercise maximum pressure” on Mr Putin, whose “decisions will further isolate Russia”.
German Chancellor Olaf Schulz denounced the recall as an “act of desperation” in a “criminal war” he said Russia could not win.
Moscow’s comments this week came as Russian forces in Ukraine face their biggest challenge since the conflict began.
During the massive Ukrainian counteroffensive in recent weeks, Kyiv’s forces recaptured hundreds of towns and villages.
In a rare acknowledgment of military losses from Moscow, Shoigu said on Wednesday that 5,937 Russian soldiers have been killed in Ukraine since the military intervention began in February.
Ukrainian soldiers aboard an armored personnel carrier on their way to the front line against Russian forces in the Donetsk region. source: France Press agency / (Photo by Anatoly Stepanov/AFP via Getty Images)
Beijing, which has so far tacitly backed Moscow’s intervention, called on Wednesday for a “cease-fire through dialogue” and in a possible reference to the referendums said “the territorial integrity of all countries should be respected”.