Protesters in Russia risk arrest to speak out against Putin’s war

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From the beginning of Russia’s war on Ukraine, protesters have filled the streets around the world. But nowhere is protesting a more significant act than it is in Russia.

According to a Russian human rights group, the government arrested more than 13,000 protesters in the first two weeks of the war.

“Sometimes police officers take your phone, take your stuff, and you have nothing. Sometimes they beat people,” said Eva Ivanova. Two weeks ago, the 18-year-old was among about 1,500 protesting in St. Petersburg. Hundreds were detained. Ivanova said she was held at a police station for 28 hours, and ordered to sign a statement of guilt. 

Demonstration In Russia Against Military Actions In Ukraine
Eva Ivanova was among the hundreds arrested at an anti-war protest in the center of St. Petersburg, February 26, 2022. 

Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty Images


“And I said, ‘I’m not signing it, because I don’t think I’m guilty,” she told correspondent David Pogue. “They got crazy. And they tried to scare me with, ‘Yeah, 20 years of jail!'”

But that wasn’t the worst part: “You know, they can change your mind. They say something, and you start to doubt: Maybe they are right. I saw people get broken.”

Dmitri Gudkov was a Russian Parliament member from 2011 to 2016. He openly opposed Vladimir Putin’s regime. “It’s very risky to take to the street,” he said. “If you participate in the protest for the first time, you can be sent to prison up to 15 days; the second time, 30 days; and third time, it will be criminal case, so it’s five years of prison.”

After receiving threats, Gudkov and his family left the country last June.

Police detain a demonstrator during a protest against Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in St. Petersburg, March 2, 2022. 

Dmitri Lovetsky/AP


“Putin decided to get rid of all opponents, of all politicians in the Parliament, because I think that he was planning this invasion in Ukraine,” Gudkov said.

“Can a protest do anything under these conditions?” Pogue asked.

“It can achieve nothing by the protest; it’s impossible,” he replied. “It is still very risky, and it’s not efficient at all.”

Eva Ivanova knows that protesting won’t stop the war. But that’s not why she does it.

“I don’t think that the protest can stop a ‘special military operation,'” she said, using the government’s legally required euphemism for the war. “But I believe that that’s how we can show our protest and our respect to Ukrainian people. Furthermore, I want people from other countries to see that our government is not us. Russian people is not Russian government.”

Demonstration In Russia Against Military Actions In Ukraine
Participants of a rally against military actions in Ukraine, in St. Petersburg, Russia, February 27, 2022.

Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty Images


Pogue asked, “Are you more afraid now to do another protest?”

“Yes, and I can get in big trouble, but it doesn’t stop me,” she replied. “You have to go and go and go, because you know that it’s correct. You must support people. You must show your position.”

“Are you at all worried about showing your face on television?”

“A little bit. But I want people to see that I’m a good person, that I have faith, I have voice, and I want that voice to be heard.”

“Are you a very unusual, brave, courageous person? Or are there lots of people like you?”

“I don’t think I’m an extraordinary girl. No, I’m just, I’m just a girl,” Ivanova replied. “I’m sure that there are a lot of people like me in Russia. In protest, I can see that.”

Demonstration In Russia Against Military Actions In Ukraine
Participants of a rally in St. Petersburg protesting military actions against Ukraine, February 27, 2022.

Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty Images


       
Story produced by John Goodwin. Editor: Lauren Barnello. 



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