Russian police detained dozens of people, including journalists, at a protest on February 3rd organized by wives and mothers of Russian soldiers mobilized to fight in Ukraine. The women gathered in Moscow demanding the return of their loved ones from the war ahead of the 500th day since Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “partial mobilization.”
Women Rally Near Red Square Carrying Flowers and “Bring Them Home” Signs
Wives and mothers of Russian soldiers mobilized in September 2022 assembled near Moscow’s Red Square and the Kremlin presidential palace, according to The Moscow Times. Carrying red carnations and signs saying “Bring Them Home,” the women also lit candles arranged to spell “500,” marking the number of days since Putin’s mobilization order on September 21, 2022.
Videos on social media showed the women chanting slogans like “No to war!” and “Bring them home!”
Detentions of Journalists Filming Protest Spark Outcry
Witnesses told AFP that Russian police detained around 20 journalists covering the demonstration, including reporters working for AFP, Associated Press and Russian independent media. The journalists were released after several hours.
Press freedom organizations sharply criticized the detentions. The deputy head of Russia’s Journalists’ Union, Timur Shafir, called it “another government action that violates the rights of journalists.”
|The Moscow Times
|At least 20
At Least 27 Demonstrators Detained Alongside Journalists
In addition to detaining journalists, Russian police also arrested over two dozen participants in the soldiers’ wives rally. Russian human rights group OVD-Info reported at least 27 demonstrators taken into custody. According to another rights organization, Agora, 32 protesters were detained.
Most of those held by police were released after several hours, while five still faced court hearings, said human rights lawyer Pavel Chikov.
Women’s Discontent Adds to Pressure on Putin
The bold public protest organized by wives and mothers of soldiers pile more pressure on the Kremlin, as Russian casualties continue mounting in Ukraine a year into Putin’s “special military operation.”
Relatives of mobilized men have grown increasingly vocal, demanding clarity on where their loved ones are deployed and why tour durations keep getting extended. A January 29 report in El País chronicled rising activism from soldiers’ families, intent on bringing the men home.
Analysts say such grassroots opposition groups are challenging to suppress, as the Kremlin seeks to maintain control amid discontent over the flailing Ukraine campaign.
“Unlike street protests attended by a few hundred citizens, this is a diverse, little organized movement driven by personal dramas that the authorities are struggling to placate,” said political scientist Tatiana Stanovaya.
Further Dissent Expected Ahead of Election Season
Observers anticipate domestic pressure in Russia to intensify as Putin faces re-election in 2024. Mounting economic troubles and anger from soldiers’ relatives may present growing headaches for Putin’s regime.
“As the election season starts this spring, the Kremlin wants to make sure that this existential threat remains muted,” said former Russian diplomat Vladimir Frolov.
But relatives of mobilized soldiers could resurge around symbolically important dates, Frolov predicted, forcing Russian authorities into a delicate balancing act to contain unrest.
The wives and mothers demanding Russian soldiers’ return already show a steely determination. “I do not wish the terror I feel every day on anyone,” said Svetlana Gorelikova, whose husband was mobilized. “But I’m not going anywhere.”
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