Images and videos show police fighting protesters in several cities, with footage A number of protesters are shown at a demonstration in central Moscow, led by St. Petersburg police and authorities, trying to contain a “non-mobilization” crowd outside the Isakiivskiy Cathedral.
Police arrested protesters in 38 Russian cities on Wednesday, according to data released shortly after midnight by the independent monitoring group OVD-Info. Maria Kuznetsova, a spokeswoman for the group, said in a phone call with CNN that some of the protesters arrested by riot police at at least four Moscow police stations were joining the Russian military directly.
One of the detainees has been threatened with prosecution for refusing to write, he said. The government said the penalty for refusing the draft is now 15 years in prison. Of the more than 1,300 people arrested nationwide, more than 500 were in Moscow and more than 520 in St. Petersburg, according to OVD-Info.
The decree itself does not only apply to reservationists. “It allows you to make a call [of] Citizens of the Russian Federation for military service by mobilizing them in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.”
Putin raised the specter of nuclear weapons in his speech, saying he would use “all means at our disposal” if he believes Russia’s “territorial integrity” is at risk. It also approved referendums on joining Russia in the four occupied regions of Ukraine announced by Russian-appointed leaders this week.
Images on social media showed several protesters in Ulan Ud in eastern Siberia chanting “No to war! No to mobilization!” and “Our husbands, fathers and brothers do not want to kill other husbands and fathers!”
“We want our fathers, husbands and brothers to stay alive… and not leave our children orphans. Stop the war and don’t take our country!” said a protester.
The video from Ekaterinburg in western Russia showed police clashing with several protesters. CNN was unable to verify images from any cities.
Another video posted by a reporter from Moscow’s The Village magazine shows dozens of people on Arbatskaya Street chanting “Let him go” as a man is carried away.
Moscow’s Prosecutor’s Office also warned citizens on Tuesday to share information calling for participation in the protests, reminding them that they could face up to 15 years in prison.
In a rare joint statement, British Prime Minister Liz Truss and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday they both agreed that Putin’s announcement of a partial mobilization of Russian citizens was a sign of “weakness.”
Ukraine defied the announcement, with President Volodymyr Zelensky telling the UNGA in a pre-recorded speech on Wednesday that Russia was “afraid of real (peace) negotiations”, calling them Russian “lies”.
Russia “talks about talks but announces military mobilization,” Zelensky said. “Russia wants war.”
Katya Krebs, Uliana Pavlova, Gianluca Mezzofiore and Anastasia Graham-Yooll, Sugam Pokharel, Clare Sebastian, Idris Muktar and Stephanie Halasz contributed to this report.