RUSSIE 13 500 manifestants arrêtés

« Down with the war ». St. Petersburg, February 25

A powerful movement of opposition to the war in Russia arose spontaneously on 24 February, the first day of the war. The Russian website OVD-Info, which records acts of repression, reports that since 24 February more than 13,500 anti-war protesters have been arrested. This means that probably forty or fifty times as many citizens have demonstrated… in a country where participating in an unauthorised demonstration can lead to prison. 

Repression unleashed 

On 3 March, the General Prosecutor’s Office ruled that participation in the demonstrations was « extremism », punishable by heavy fines and up to six years in prison. 

On 3 and 4 March, the Duma (parliament) adopted amendments to the Criminal Code that increased the penalties for those accused of « spreading false information about the armed forces » to up to 15 years in prison. The regime has banned the use of the word « war », referring to it as a « special operation« . During the night of 4 to 5 March, hundreds of searches were carried out by the police. 

The crisis in the regime is growing 

But the brutality of the repressive measures only reflects the panic at the top of the regime in the face of an increasingly massive mobilisation that it cannot control. It is a regime in crisis: its social base, the top oligarchs – who have lost several hundred billion dollars in the past week – are beginning to make their voices heard. Oleg Deripaska, the boss of Rusal (aluminium), has gone the furthest in questioning « State capitalism » – in other words, the Kremlin. Among the leading oligarchs who criticise the regime are the bosses of Lukoil and Alfa Group (oil, gas, banking, insurance). 

A first strike against the collapse in living standards 

The consequences of the sanctions and the fall of the rouble, leading to the collapse of the purchasing power of the masses, are beginning to provoke reactions among the working class. At the Gemont oil factory in Nizhnekamensk (Tatarstan) on 5 March, several hundred Turkish workers went on strike for the payment of wage arrears. So the Putin regime is forced to use both the stick and the carrot. On 6 March, the RIA Novosti agency announced a new Putin law confiscating the bank accounts of high-ranking civil servants if the amount exceeds three years of their income. The regime has to make the working people, affected by imperialist sanctions and soaring prices, believe that it is also hitting the rich. 

6 March, tens of thousands once again

Dans un fourgon de police, Saint-Pétersbourg, 6 mars

But nothing works: neither the repression, nor the unleashing of « patriotic » propaganda, nor the grandstanding announcements can stop the movement. On Sunday 6 March, massive new antiwar demonstrations took place in a hundred cities across Russia. OVD-Info reports that the police made 5,020 arrests in 69 cities on that day alone. 

In St. Petersburg, arrested and beaten young demonstrators take pictures of themselves doing the V for victory sign in the paddy wagons (photo). In Kazan (Tatarstan), demonstrators chant « No to war! Our children are not cannon fodder« . According to the polling institutes – even though they are controlled by the regime (VTSIOM, FOM) – half of the people interviewed under the age of 30 are opposed to the war. 

« Our enemy is not in Kiev or Odessa but in Moscow” 

as an appeal by 5,000 teachers against the war. Or this initiative by 300 leaders of the Communist Party and the Komsomols (Communist Youth) against the pro-war position of their party*. « Several hundred of us are threatened with exclusion, » says a regional Komsomol leader in a Siberian town. And we quote the manifesto from the « Coalition of Socialists Against the War  » which concludes as follows: « Our enemy is not in Kiev or Odessa but in Moscow. It is time to get rid of them. The war is not Russia. The war is Putin and his regime. That is why we, socialists and communists, are against this criminal war. We must stop it to save Russia. No to intervention! No to dictatorship! No to poverty!”

With our correspondents in Russia 

* Zyuganov, leader of the « Communist » Party and a staunch supporter of Putin’s war, took part in a fully authorised demonstration on Red Square in Moscow on 5 March in honour of the 69th anniversary of Stalin’s death! 

Mothers of soldiers confront the governor

An exchange that has been widely circulated on video on social networks shows the governor of Kemerovo (the Siberian industrial region of Kuzbass) confronting mothers of soldiers. 

One mother: « You take our children for cannon fodder! ” 

— Another: « Why did you send them there? They are barely 20 years old!” 

— Another: « And you, where is your son?” 

— The governor, embarrassed: « … My son is at university… ». 

— A mother is indignant: « At the university!” 

The governor: « It’s a ‘special operation’… they were used… » 

— A mother cuts him off: « You used our children! You used them! » 

— The governor, unsettled: « This will all be over soon… we have to stop talking about it… »

Among the victims of the repression

Irina Choumilova (Kostroma, March 5)

On 5 March in Kostroma, Irina Shumilova was arrested for holding up this sign: « This special operation is financed by our taxes, but in order to pay for the hospitalisation of our children, we have to ask for charity » (photo)

She was fined 30,000 roubles (250 euros (£201 or $262) – one month’s average salary in many parts of Russia). 

On 6 March in Krasnoyarsk (Central Siberia) the demonstrator Vera Kotova was arrested, accused of writing « Down with the war! » in the snow in front of the Lenin statue during the rally. 

On 7 March in Dzerzhinsk (suburb of Nizhny Novgorod), Andrei Rudoi, an activist of the Union of Marxists and former president of the Russian Teachers’ Union, was arrested on the basis of an « anonymous complaint » accusing him of « spreading hatred, carrying out extremist actions and gathering elements of the radical left« .