Massive arrests as Russia starts military mobilization for Ukraine war
By Stefan J. Bos
They risked lengthy prison terms or being sent to the deadly front lines of Ukraine. Yet, in defiance of strict regulations, many people dared to shout what many Russians seemed to think these days: "No to war! No to war!" And "No to Mobilization!"
Aggressive riot police pushed protesters, women and men, to the ground or against a window.
Many were taken as cattle into awaiting buses, facing an uncertain future.
Up to 1,400 anti-mobilization protesters are reported to have been detained in dozens of cities, including Moscow, since Wednesday.
However, demonstrators say they won't give up their struggle.
"I am not afraid, I am not afraid of anything," a mother said while nearby riot police detained protestors like her. "The most valuable thing they can take from us is our children's lives. I won't give them my child's life."
Another young woman suggested that the rallies come too late. "We should have been afraid before. The worst already happened."
The woman referred to the tens of thousands of Russian soldiers believed to have been killed or wounded in Ukraine, though the Kremlin gives lower figures. Police used force against protestors in cities across Russia, ranging from Moscow and St. Petersburg to Novosibirsk in Siberia.
Russian authorities are now considering pushing protestors away from the cameras into Ukraine. However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has not denied media reports that some protesters were already given draft papers.
With as many as 300,000 reservists forced to join the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many are trying to leave Russia. People queue at airports, but many flights are no longer available.
Tickets to visa-free destinations such as Istanbul; Dubai; Yerevan, Armenia; and Almaty, Kazakhstan, were either sold out for the next several days, or their prices had skyrocketed.
Despite all the misery, there was hope for some inmates, with Ukraine celebrating a prisoner exchange that saw more than 200 prisoners of war released by Russia.
They include more than 100 members of the controversial Azov Battalion, seen as heroes by Kyiv for mounting resistance at a steelworks in the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol.
Separately give, British nationals also freed have arrived back in Britain. But with the war continuing and four Russian-occupied territories planning referendums on joining Russia, many more people are expected to be detained or killed.
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