Over 800 protesters arrested in Russia refusing to invade Ukraine

OVD-Info, a non-governmental organization that monitors demonstrations, reported that more than 800 people were arrested, who demonstrated Sunday in 37 cities across Russia against the Russian military operation in Ukraine.

AFP reporters saw police violently arresting demonstrators in Moscow and in Saint Petersburg (northwest), the country's second city.

In Moscow, dozens of people defied the imposed protest ban and gathered in Manezh Square near the Kremlin. At least 100 protesters and one journalist were taken away by the police, according to an AFP correspondent at the scene.

“Peace in the world!” a woman chanted. While two policemen were dragging her by force.

A number of police officers drew the letter "Z" on their helmets, as an expression of their appreciation and support for the Russian soldiers deployed in Ukraine.

In the evening, the Ministry of Interior announced the arrest of about 300 people in the capital for “various violations of public order,” noting that legal prosecutions are underway against them.

In Saint Petersburg, where several police cars were seen in the city centre, protesters tried to be careful. According to OVD-Info, at least 156 people were arrested during the day in the city.

Christina, 20, wore a blue jacket and a yellow hat, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. "Of course going out to the frightening protest," she told AFP. Everyone is taken away, many of my friends have been arrested, and others have been expelled from the university.”

"I wear the colors of Ukraine and I stand here, protesting one way or another," she added.

"You are all traitors, we must arrest you all," shouted a passing woman in her sixties.

Despite the ban, peaceful demonstrators gather daily in Russia to denounce the military intervention in Ukraine.

Although their number is limited, the very fact that these gatherings are organized amid very strong repression is remarkable. Demonstrators are systematically fined or even imprisoned.

In all, since February 24, at least 14,700 people have been arrested in Russia during anti-conflict protests in Ukraine, according to OVD-Info. Only last Sunday, more than five thousand demonstrators were arrested, which is a record number for one day.

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