More than 1,000 people have been arrested across Russia, according to a local monitoring group, following protests against Moscow’s partial mobilisation order on Wednesday.
Independent news outlets said some of those arrested were served a summons to report to military enlistment offices on Thursday, the first full day of conscription.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, asked about reports that men detained were being given draft papers, said it was not against the law.
President Vladimir Putin’s call to mobilise another 300,000 Russians to fight in Ukraine signalled an escalation in the war which has already killed thousands and displaced millions.
The OVD-Info monitor said nearly 1,400 people in 38 Russian cities were detained in anti-war protests on Wednesday.
According to AFP news agency journalists in central Moscow, at least 50 people were detained by police in anti-riot gear, while in Saint Petersburg, police surrounded and detained a small group of protesters, loading them onto a bus as they chanted, “No mobilisation!”
“Everyone is scared. I am for peace and I don’t want to have to shoot,” said protester Vasily Fedorov, a student wearing a pacifist symbol on his chest, AFP reported.
In Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city, police hauled onto buses some of the 40 protesters who were detained at an anti-war rally.
One woman in a wheelchair shouted, referring to the Russian president: “Goddamn bald-headed nut job. He’s going to drop a bomb on us, and we’re all still protecting him. I’ve said enough,” the AP news agency reported.
The Vesna opposition movement called for protests, saying: “Thousands of Russian men, our fathers, brothers and husbands, will be thrown into the meat grinder of the war. What will they be dying for? What will mothers and children be crying for?”
The Moscow prosecutor’s office warned that organising or participating in protests could lead to up to 15 years in prison.
Wednesday’s rallies were the first nationwide anti-war protests since the fighting began in late February.
Meanwhile, flights out of Russia were nearly fully booked this week, airline and travel agent data showed, in an apparent exodus of people unwilling to join the conflict.
During the mobilisation announcement, Putin also pledged to use “all available means” to protect Russian territory.
And a day earlier, Moscow-held regions of Ukraine announced annexation referendums in the occupied regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia later this week, in which people will be asked to join Russia.
The votes have been panned by the West, as they are being conducted during occupation and without oversight.