More than 170 detained in Ukraine protests across Russia; Moscow declares top journalist, video blogger 'foreign agents'

The list includes Maria Borzunova, a reporter from the independent TV Rain (Dozhd) channel. PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (AFP, REUTERS) - Russian police detained 176 people on Saturday (April 2) at protests against Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine, an NGO said.

OVD-Info, which monitors arrests during protests, said police had detained at least 176 people during demonstrations in 14 cities in Russia.

An AFP journalist in Moscow witnessed more than 20 people detained by riot police under heavy snowfall in the capital’s central park Zaryadye, a short distance from the Kremlin.

Police escorted away people sitting on park benches or just standing around without explaining the reasons for the detention, the reporter said.

One of the detained women held a bouquet of white tulips, while another several times exclaimed “No to war in Ukraine!” as she was being taken away.

A national sit-in on Saturday against what Moscow calls its “military operation” in Ukraine was announced on social media by activists in around 30 Russian cities.

The organisers said in a statement they wanted to protest “the collapse of (Russia’s) economy”, against Russian President Vladimir Putin and to demand freedom for jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

“Russia deserves peace, democracy and prosperity,” they said.

In Russia’s second city, Saint Petersburg, AFP saw multiple arrests near the city’s Legislative Assembly where around 40 people gathered, although it was unclear how many were there to protest.

“Nobody will come, all the active ones were detained at previous protests,” said 30-year-old Sergei Gorelov, who said he came to “take a look and show support if necessary”.

“I just came to stand around, to somehow express my protest to everything that is happening. It’s scary to protest actively,” Galina Sedova, 50, told AFP at the scene.

Protesters risk fines and possible prison sentences by taking to the streets.

OVD-Info said that over 15,000 people have been detained at rallies across the country to protest Russian military action in Ukraine, which was launched on February 24.

Also on Saturday, Russia declared a prominent journalist, a video blogger and six other media figures "foreign agents", the latest in a series of such moves that critics say are designed to stifle dissent.

The expanded list, published by the Justice Ministry late on Friday, included Elizaveta Osetinskaya, former editor-in-chief of several Russian business newspapers that published disclosures about the commercial interests of people close to President Vladimir Putin.

The term "foreign agent" carries negative Soviet-era connotations and subjects those listed to stringent financial reporting requirements. It also obliges them to preface anything they publish with a disclaimer stating they are foreign agents.

The list also included Maria Borzunova, a reporter from the independent TV Rain (Dozhd) channel, which was itself declared a "foreign agent" last August and suspended its work after Russia blocked access to its website in March.

Evgeny Ponasenkov, a writer and video blogger, known for witty off-the-cuff remarks taking aim at the government on social media and talk shows on state-run TV channels, was also named a "foreign agent".

 

 

 

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