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Ukraine-Russia Crisis: Hundreds of Russian anti-war protesters arrested

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KYIV/MOSCOW – Shocked Russians turned out by the thousands Thursday to decry their country’s invasion of Ukraine as emotional calls for protests grew on social media.

According to a data report by Al Jazeera, police in Russia arrested nearly 1,400 people at anti-war protests staged in cities across the country after President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine, an independent monitor said.

Demonstrators march with a banner that reads: “Ukraine – Peace, Russia – Freedom”, in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, after Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Hundreds of people gathered in the center of Moscow on Thursday, protesting against Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Many of the demonstrators were detained. Similar protests took place in other Russian cities, and activists were also arrested. (AP Photo/Dmitry Serebryakov)

Meanwhile, the Associated Press said some 1,745 people in 54 Russian cities were detained, at least 957 of them in Moscow.

And about 340 people in the second largest city Saint Petersburg, the monitor said.

“More than 1,391 people have already been detained in 51 cities,” said OVD-Info on Thursday, which tracks arrests at opposition rallies.

Police officers detain demonstrators in St. Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Hundreds of people gathered in Moscow and St.Petersburg on Thursday, protesting against Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Many of the demonstrators were detained. Similar protests took place in other Russian cities, and activists were also arrested. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

Hundreds of comments poured in, condemning Moscow’s most aggressive actions since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Vladimir Putin described the attack as a “special military operation” to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine from “genocide,” a false claim that the US predicted would be used as a pretext for invasion and that many Russians strongly rejected.

Tatyana Usmanova, a Moscow-based opposition activist, wrote on Facebook that she awoke at 5:30 a.m. thinking she was dreaming. to the news, which she described as “a disgrace that will now be with us forever.”

Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Hundreds of people gathered in the center of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod and other Russian cities on Thursday, protesting against Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Many of the demonstrators were detained. Similar protests took place in other Russian cities, and activists were also arrested. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

“I want to ask Ukrainians for forgiveness. We didn’t vote for those who unleashed the war,” she said.

A number of Russian activists called on social media for people to take to the streets after Putin launched the offensive on Ukraine in the early hours of Thursday.

One petition, started by a prominent human rights advocate, Lev Ponomavyov, garnered over 150,000 signatures within several hours and 289,000 by the end of the day.

More than 250 journalists put their names on an open letter decrying the aggression. Another one was signed by some 250 scientists, while by 194 municipal council members in Moscow and other cities signed a third.

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