Ukraine invasion: Thousands take to the streets in Russia to say ‘no to war’
NEW DELHI, FEBRUARY 25: As President Vladimir Putin launched an attack on Ukraine Thursday, thousands of people took to streets across Russia to protest, saying “no to war” and standing in solidarity with Ukrainians. Videos of the anti-war protests have gone viral on social media.
As Putin ordered Russian troops to enter Ukraine, thousands of Russians came out to participate in anti-war protests in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and other cities. Defying police warnings, people took to central squares to protest against the military campaign. Some risked arrest in order to voice their opposition to the invasion.
“No to war!” chanted a crowd of mostly young Russians gathered on Nevsky Prospekt, the main street in St Petersburg, with candles and banners in hand. “I have no words, it’s just disgusting”, a young woman at the rally was quoted by Al Jazeera. “What is there to say? We feel powerlessness, anguish.”
“I am embarrassed for my country. To be honest with you, I am speechless. War is always scary. We don’t want this”, Nikita Golubev, participating in a rally at Moscow’s Pushkinskaya Square told The Guardian. “Why are we doing this?” the 30-year-old teacher asked.
As anti-war chants grew louder, the police were sent in to arrest protesters. “By 10.49 p.m., police had detained 1,667 people at rallies in 53 cities, the OVD-Info rights monitor said, easily the biggest tally since last year’s crushing of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s network ushered in an ice age in activism”, Reuters reported.
Dissent also came from unusually mainstream figures such as Ivan Urgant, one of Russia’s most famous television comedians, who wrote on Instagram: “Fear and Pain. NO TO WAR.”
Singer Valery Meladze said on Instagram that “history will judge and put everything in its places. But today I beg you to stop military action and come together in talks.”
Tennis star Daniil Medvedev of Russia too shared his feeling about the ongoing crisis. “By being a tennis player, I want to promote peace all over the world. We play in so many different countries; I’ve been in so many countries as a junior and as a pro. It’s just not easy to hear all this news. … I’m all for peace”, he said,
However, as pictures and videos of the Russians protesting went viral, it provided a glimmer of hope among people online, as they applaud them for their “bravery”.
Not just in Russia, anti-war protests have erupted in major cities around the world, from New York to London, all urging Putin to roll back his troops as the number of casualties breached 100 on the first day.