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Russia arrests protesters on Ukraine war anniversary

February 24, 2023

Russian authorities have arrested several Russians who placed flowers at the statues of famed Ukrainian writers to protest against the war, according to Russian NGOs and media.

A Russian woman brings flowers to the statue of Ukrainian poet Lesya Ukrainka in Moscow on Friday
A Russian woman brings flowers to the statue of Ukrainian poet Lesya Ukrainka in Moscow on FridayImage: Stringer/REUTERS

Russian authorities have taken several people into custody for opposing the Ukraine war on the anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of its neighbor, rights groups and media outlets reported on Friday.

At least eight people were detained in Yekaterinburg, the fourth-largest city in Russia, according to OVD-Info, a Russian human rights group that tracks arrests of dissenters.

People across Russia actively protested against the war in Ukraine during the first week of the invasion in 2022. But large rallies fizzled out after thousands were detained.

Still, single-person protests have continued throughout the year. Ben Hodges, a former commander of US Army Europe, told DW on Friday that it is difficult to estimate how much actual support for the war there is among the Russian public. 

"We will never know for sure... but I would not mistake a stadium full of people waving Russian flags as strong support," Hodges said, adding the best indicator of opposition to the war was that hundreds of thousands of Russian men had fled the country to avoid conscription.

What does Ukraine need to win the war?

How many people have been arrested?

SOTA, one of the last remaining independent news outlets in Russia, filmed at least seven people being detained in St. Petersburg for having brought flowers to a monument for renowned Ukrainian writer Taras Shevchenko.

The outlet posted a video showing a police officer explaining to a couple that they had violated coronavirus restrictions.

OVD-Info reported that at least nine people had been detained in St. Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city.

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SOTA also reported a person detained in Moscow, where people flocked to the monument of famed Ukrainian writer, Leysa Ukrainka.

Footage by the outlet showed police officers monitoring but not interrupting the group of people who brought flowers to the monument.

Russian opposition outlet Meduza also reported that a young woman had been arrested for holding a sign that read "I support peace," in Korolyov, a city in the Moscow region.

The outlet reported that a city councilman of Vyksa had been arrested for protesting with a sign that read "Peace to Ukraine. Soldiers go home."

Russians held solidarity protests in other cities like Rostov-on-Don, Magnitogorsk and Vladivostok as well.

DW Note: Please find our full coverage of the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine here.

rm/sms (AP, dpa)