Russian police deployed in force to quell anti-war protests and quickly arrested demonstrators rallying against conscription orders for the “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Police arrested nearly 730 people, including 370 in Moscow and 150 in St Petersburg, according to OVD-Info, an independent website that monitors political arrests in Russia. Some of the arrested were minors.
In Moscow, a heavy contingent of police roamed a downtown area where a protest was planned under pouring rain and checked the IDs of passersby. Officers rounded up those deemed suspicious and later distributed call-up summons to the men who were arrested.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s first public mobilisation since World War II – needed to shore up its faltering Ukraine war – has also triggered a rush for the border and rare criticism from Kremlin officials.
Before being rounded up in St Petersburg, a small group of demonstrators managed to briefly march along the main Nevsky Avenue shouting, “Putin into the trenches!”
In the city of Novosibirsk in eastern Siberia, more than 70 people were arrested after singing an innocuous Soviet-era song praising peace.
The police action followed the dispersal of protests on Wednesday when some 1,300 people were detained in Moscow, St Petersburg and other cities.