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Police officers in St. Petersburg detain a protestor during a demonstration against the Russian war on Ukraine. (Photo: Stringer/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Thousands Arrested as Russians Join Global Anti-War Protests

Demonstrators' key demands are: "Stop the war in Ukraine. Russian troops out. No to NATO expansion."

Jessica Corbett

Thousands of people were arrested in Russia on Sunday for joining a global day of action against Russian President Vladimir Putin's war on Ukraine, which has killed at least hundreds of civilians and created a refugee crisis.

Although Russian authorities have cracked down on protests and critical reporting since the February 24 invasion, 4,849 people were detained in 69 cities across Russia as of 2:09 am in Moscow, according to the independent monitor OVD-Info.

"The screws are being fully tightened—essentially we are witnessing military censorship," OVD-Info spokesperson Maria Kuznetsova told Reuters by telephone from Tbilisi. "We are seeing rather big protests today, even in Siberian cities where we only rarely saw such numbers of arrests."

The arrests in Russia occurred amid a global wave of protests calling for an end to not only Putin's war but also the eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that has fueled regional tensions.

Leading up to the invasion, Putin pointed to Ukraine possibly joining NATO as a threat. International affairs experts have suggested that the bloodshed in Ukraine might have been avoided if Western officials negotiated more seriously to address Moscow's security concerns.

The day of action was organized by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, CodePink, No to NATO network, and Stop the War Coalition. Their demands were: "Stop the war in Ukraine. Russian troops out. No to NATO expansion."

"In this day of action, we are uplifting the global outcry against Russia's horrific war and rising up in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and the anti-war protestors in Russia to demand an end to the bloodshed and destruction," CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin said earlier this week.

CodePink tweeted Sunday that "our hearts are filled with hope as we see people across the globe taking to the streets to demand #NoWarInUkraine."

Demonstrators and observers used the hashtag to share updates from actions around the world:

"There can be never be anything but condemnation of President Putin for launching a war on the people of Ukraine," former British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn told a crowd in London. "If you can agree a cease-fire to allow for humanitarian corridors, you can agree a cease-fire to stop the war.

Ukrainian officials accused Russian forces of breaching the cease-fire and impeding weekend evacuations. Still, as of Sunday, more than 1.5 million people had fled Ukraine in what one United Nations official called "the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II."

Meanwhile, Putin—whose comments in recent weeks have raised fears of nuclear weapons use—said Saturday that if Ukraine's leadership keeps resisting the invasion, "they are calling into question the future of Ukrainian statehood," and that Western sanctions "are akin to declaring war."

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