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13 Mar, 2022 17:26

Hundreds detained at anti-war protest in Moscow – police

Law enforcement cordoned off a square not far from the Kremlin, ahead of demonstration against Russia's actions in Ukraine
Hundreds detained at anti-war protest in Moscow – police

The Russian capital has seen an anti-war protest for the second weekend in a row amid the ongoing attack on Ukraine. The Sunday demonstration had not been agreed with authorities and ended up in numerous detentions.

According to Moscow police, as cited by RIA and Interfax news agencies, around 300 protesters have been held. The law enforcement has cited "various violations of public order" as the reason for the arrests, without elaborating. Authorities also did not announce the total number of those taking part in the rally.

Authorities had taken "all the necessary measures" to "prevent" the rally, which hadn't been agreed with the city authorities as required by Russian law, police have pointed out. There were no reports about any incidents during the protest.

Some media have reported that large police units have been deployed to Manezhnaya Square, just outside the Kremlin, and that the square itself had been mostly cordoned off before the protest.

Moscow wasn't the only Russian city to see protests on Sunday. In St. Petersburg, around 150 people have been detained following a similar rally in the city center, according to local media. The demonstration there was attended by a much smaller number than the previous weekend, according to journalists.

Russia has seen sporadic anti-war protests springing up since the start of Moscow's military offensive in Ukraine, which was launched on February 24. A series of particularly large demonstrations calling for an end to the military action were held in several Russian cities, including Moscow and St Petersburg, on March 6. On that occasion, the rallies, which had not been coordinated with authorities, ended up in thousands of arrests.

In early March, Russian lawmakers passed legislation criminalizing the "defamation" of the Russian army and the spreading of "fake" information about Russian troops or calling for anti-Russia sanctions. Some opposition figures then accused the authorities of attempting to silence dissent. Moscow justified the law by pointing to an "information war" being waged by the US and its allies against Russia over its actions in Ukraine.

Moscow attacked its neighbor in late February, following a seven-year standoff over Ukraine's failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, and Russia's eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered Minsk protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.

Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.