More than 1,000 people have been arrested in Russia during protests in several cities against a partial military mobilization announced by President Vladimir Putin on Sep. 21.
Demonstrations broke out in Moscow and St. Petersburg and more than 30 other Russian cities after Putin announced the mobilization, OVD-Info said.
By 10 p.m. Moscow time nearly 1,000 people had been detained at protests in the Russian capital and St. Petersburg, the human rights project said. A total of about 200 people were arrested in other cities, including Chelyabinsk, Yekaterinburg, Krasnoyarsk, Ufa, Krasnodar, and Irkutsk.
The protest in Moscow included many women who chanted “Life to our children!” and “No to war!” Videos posted on social media indicated that several hundred people took part in the Moscow protest, where people formed a chain by clasping their hands. The police pulled protesters out of the chain one by one.
Participants held up posters with the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag and chanted “No to mobilization!” and “Russia without Putin.”
Authorities warned people that they faced up to 15 years in prison for taking part in the demonstrations.
In St. Petersburg, opponents of the mobilization order, including many women, gathered at St. Isaac’s Cathedral before they were rounded up by the police. There were reports that law enforcement officers beat demonstrators with rubber truncheons during arrests.
Putin announced the mobilization, due to start immediately, in a broadcast to the nation as the invasion of Ukraine nears seven months and while Kyiv is regaining territory in a counteroffensive.
“We are talking about partial mobilization, that is, only citizens who are currently in the reserve will be subject to conscription, and above all, those who served in the armed forces, have a certain military specialty, and relevant experience,” Putin said.
Putin said his aim was to “liberate” east Ukraine’s Donbas region, claiming without providing any proof, that most people in the region did not want to return to what he called the “yoke” of Ukraine.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a televised interview on September 21 that only those with relevant combat and service experience would be mobilized and not conscripts and students.
The address came a day after Russian-occupied regions in eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans to hold votes on being incorporated into Russia, triggering outrage and condemnations not only in Kyiv but from much of the international community.
Analysts say the Kremlin-backed efforts to swallow up four regions could set the stage for Moscow to escalate the war following Ukrainian successes on the battlefield.
The referendums, which have been expected to take place since the first months of the war, will start on September 23 in the Luhansk, Kherson, partly Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhya, and Donetsk regions.
Putin also warned the West that “it’s not a bluff” that Russia would use all the means at its disposal to protect its territory.
He accused the West of engaging in “nuclear blackmail” and claimed, without providing proof, that “high-ranking representatives of the leading NATO states” had allegedly made statements “about the possibility of using nuclear weapons of mass destruction against Russia.”
“To those who allow themselves such statements regarding Russia, I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction…and when the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, to protect Russia and our people, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal,” Putin said, adding “It’s not a bluff.”
– Reported by RFE/RL