Thousands detained as anti-war protests erupt across Russia
Around 1,700 people were seized in Moscow, the Ria news agency reported, using interior ministry figures.
The Russian media is being increasingly muzzled with licences removed for using the words “war” or “invasion” rather than referring to the “special operation” in Ukraine.
Much of Russia’s armed forces have been deployed in Ukraine, meaning the Kremlin might be stretched to find loyal troops to put down prolonged, determined protests against the war.
Some Russian state-controlled media groups carried short reports about Sunday’s protests but they did not feature prominently in coverage.
The RIA news agency said Manezhnaya Square in Moscow, which is adjacent to the Kremlin, had been “liberated” by the authorities after an unsanctioned protest against the “military operation in Ukraine”.
Putin’s approval ratings have risen in Russia, rising six percentage points to 70 per cent in late February, according to Russian state pollster VTsIOM. The pollster FOM, which works for the Kremlin, said Putin’s rating had risen seven percentage points to 71 per cent in the last week of February.
In the 11 days since the invasion, more than 10,000 people have been detained at protests, according to the independent protest monitoring group OVD-Info.
Maria Kuznetsova of OVD-Info said: “The screws are being fully tightened – essentially we are witnessing military censorship.
“We are seeing rather big protests today, even in Siberian cities where we only rarely saw such numbers of arrests.
“Each police department may have more detainees than published lists,” Kuznetsova told the media. “We publish only the names of those people about whom we know for certain and whose names we can publish.”
Last week, poisoned and jailed Alexei Navalny called for protests, calling on Russians not to be a “nation of frightened cowards”.
“Because of Putin, Russia now means war for many people,” Navalny said on Friday. “That is not right: it was Putin and not Russia that attacked Ukraine.”
Anger with Putin and the Ukraine war is likely to grow as western sanctions hammer Russia’s economy.
The ruble has lost over 30 per cent of its value against the US dollar since the invasion and Russia’s largest banks and other firms have been excluded from the international Swift banking system.
With the Bank of Russia’s foreign assets frozen, the Kremlin is struggling to defend the ruble from rapid devaluations.
The Yekaterinburg security forces beat a protester. Picture credit: YouTube