This is a message from the *Movement of Conscientious Objectors in Russia*

Posted: 11th May 2022

We are launching a newsletter for our foreign colleagues to tell stories 
of the anti-war movements inside our country. In each letter, we’ll 
delve into one of the hot topics regarding the inner resistance to the 
ongoing war with Ukraine.

We’re doing it with Google Groups. We have sent you an invitation but 
many have not accepted or rejected it, so we’re sending the first issue 
in a simple letter. Please check out your spam folders and accept or 
reject our invitation. The following issues will be sent to the members 
of the Google Group. If you believe you haven’t received an invitation 
or some mistake has happened, please contact us through this email.

 Protesters against the war

On February 24, at 5 am Russia invaded Ukraine. Waking up in the next 
few hours, many Russian citizens were shocked when they found out what 
had just happened. Among those who would not welcome such an invasion, 
it was a common belief that Putin is merely bluffing by threatening the 
West with a full-scale war. It turns out that we were wrong.

By 2022, the mass opposition movement in Russia was pretty much 
destroyed, so there were not many influential political forces that 
called on the Russians to protest against the invasion, yet some public 
figures did that. The same morning, a human rights activist Marina 
Litvinovich, who supposedly should have become a Duma deputy in 2021 but 
was denied the mandate because of massive fraud, encouraged the citizens 
of Moscow to gather at Pushkin square at a given time of the evening. 
Litvinovich was soon detained 
the police on her way out of her house. Many regional activists 
announced protests at the same time in cities all across Russia.

The protests on the first day of the war seem to have been the most 
populous <>. Some estimate 
about 2,000 people came out to protest in Moscow, and 1,000 in 
St. Petersburg; by our estimates, these numbers are understated. More 
than 2,000 people were detained 
the police across the country. These might not look like huge numbers 
but they are 
Russia, a country that has experienced intimidation of protesters and 
gradual tightening of protest laws for more than a decade. It is also 
important to note that these actions were spontaneous: Litvinovich is an 
influential persona only in a limited circle of Muscovites, she had no 
access to television or big media outlets, and her appeal spread through 
retweets and interpersonal communication.

Since February 24, protests continued every day but eventually, they 
became less and less crowded and at some point ended. The percentage of 
the detained, however, rose. On March 6, protests announced by the 
opposition movement Socialist Alternative and other activists gathered 
thousands of people across the country, with 5,000 people being 
detained, which is the highest number 
detentions in a single day since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 
some police departments, there have been reports of cruelty and 
violence, let alone legal violations of protesters’ rights. The most 
resonant case has happened in the police department of the Brateyevo 
region of Moscow, where several feminist activists who participated in 
the protests were beaten 
the police. One of the brave young women managed to record the torture 
on a tape recorder on her phone. This horrifying audio is remarkable not 
only as proof of a crime but also because of the comments 
the policemen make, saying, for example, that ‘Putin told us to beat the 
shit out of them [protesters].’

In March, new censorship laws were implemented. Russians can now go to 
jail for up to five years 
<>for publicly condemning the 
‘special operation’ or disseminating ‘deliberately false’ information 
about it. This fact has greatly contributed to the end of mass anti-war 
protests. However, it did not stop many Russians from protesting against 
the war on their own, by picketing. It is a long-time tradition in the 
opposition movement in Russia to mock the absurdity of charges against 
protesters. While during the 2019 Moscow protests, for example, several 
citizens were accused 
harming the policemen by throwing plastic cups and bottles, in 2022 
there are cases of other sorts: many people were detained for holding up 
empty pieces of paper instead of anti-war posters.

Indeed, it appears as though many people are turning picketing into 
provocative performances with the purpose to test whether such an action 
would be considered illegal by the police. The officials of a country 
that claims to have conquered Nazism ban 
most harmless slogans: ‘Fascism will not pass’, ‘No to fascism’, ‘No to 
and ‘I am pro-peace’. The same applies to the most popular slogan, ‘No 
to war’ (? ???), which was chanted by protesters, and even posters 
in which the two words, constituting the Russian phrase for ‘No to war’, 
are replaced by rows of asterisks, a taunting remark on the fact that 
the government bans the use of the word ‘war’ because it is officially 
called a ‘special military operation.’ A viral video 
<>shows a policeman lazily erasing ‘No to 
war’, written in the snow on a statue’s pedestal, with his foot. A 
person who wrote it was fined for ‘granite inscription by removing the 
snow cover’ but the fine was later canceled 

Other objects that people tried to test on illegalness were 
copy of Leo Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’, a meat package from a Russian 
brand ????, whose name has the Russian word for ‘peace’ (?) in it, 
and a bank card from a Russian state-organized payment system ?

Several administrative cases were later dismissed; for example, a person 
who held a quote 
Orwell’s ‘1984’ was released without charges. A quote from Putin’s 
anti-war speech spoken in 2021, however, cost 
citizen of St. Petersburg 30 thousand rubles.

Then, some cases are so absurd that one can only wonder what happens in 
the heads of the police when they write it down. A citizen of 
Yekaterinburg was arrested 
signaling in support of the protesters as he drove through the city. In 
other cities, people were fined for ‘expressing silent support 
to the protests, standing nearby, or ‘holding invisible 
posters’— yes, these are real excerpts from police protocols.

Some actions, however, look less like quirky performances and more like 
gestures of despair. A young Muscovite was sentenced 
two years of prison for throwing a bottle of Molotov cocktail which did 
not cause any harm, a philosopher from Moscow faces 
imprisonment after he set fire to an OMON van using Molotov at the 
center of the city, and two men are prosecuted 
an attempt of setting fire to such a van during the protests of March 6. 
In Krasnodar, a young man was detained 
<>for pulling out a couch in the 
middle of a city square, setting it on fire, and writing ‘EVIL’ on the 
asphalt. He explained that he’d done it because of his girlfriend, who 
is from Mariupol, a besieged Ukrainian city— he hasn’t been able to get 
through to her since the beginning of the invasion.

Some go even further and harm themselves in a symbolic act of outrage at 
a bloody war. In another horrifying performance from St. Petersburg, a 
young activist put a rope around her neck and handcuffed 
to a fence on a crowded street. Just a couple of days ago, a 
Yekaterinburg activist came out to a picket with an anti-war poster, 
having, quite literally, sewn <>her 
own mouth shut beforehand. She was allegedly forcibly sent to a 
psychiatric ward.


Even though mass protests and picketing are illegal in Russia, many 
courageous people fight through oppression and censorship to express 
their dissent in the ongoing war with Ukraine. Among the coordinators 
and volunteers of our Movement, some have been to protests, and have 
been detained and fined. This list of cases is just the tip of the 
iceberg, the underside of which is not fully visible even to any single 
Russian. In upcoming newsletters, we’ll tell more about how television 
celebrities, university professors and school teachers, seniors and 
young, feminist activists, culture workers, and businesspeople protest 
against the war with Ukraine. And, of course, the topic of urban 
activism of ordinary people is not exhausted at all.

Please spread this newsletter to the anti-war and anti-militarist 
organizations you trust. We would be happy if our newsletter helped you 
write about anti-war movements in Russia, however, please do not refer 
to us as the source of information publicly, we would rather you use 
phrases like ‘human rights activists’ or ‘pacifists’. We are concerned 
about our safety and do not seek publicity. You can follow our news on 
Facebook <>or Telegram 

P. S. As we write this text on May 7—9, activists of a youth democratic 
movement Vesna (?), journalists of an independent Internet outlet 
SOTA, and many other people, including ordinary citizens, are being 
detained in major Russian cities. Supposedly, this wave of detentions 
and new criminal cases is connected to the plans for new anti-war 
performances on May 9, Russian Victory Day, which is used in pro-war 
propaganda by the Russian authorities. We stand with the detained and 
prosecuted for expressing an anti-war position. Their stories will be 
told in more detail in the next letter.


The Movement of Conscientious Objectors
Find out more – call Caroline on 01722 321865 or email us.