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Russian Anti-War Activism

OLIVIA CHAN | NEWS




On 14 March 2022, Russian state TV journalist Marina Ovsyannikova ran onto the set of a live news broadcast on Russia's main state-run TV channel. She held up a sign with anti-war messages in English and Russian, stating, "NO WAR. Stop the war. Don't believe propaganda. They are lying to you. Russians against war." She was promptly arrested and taken to a Moscow police station. Ovsyannikova has not been seen since then.


"As far as this woman is concerned, this is hooliganism," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.


This comes ten days after the introduction of a new Russian law against “discrediting” the Russian armed forces, which holds charges carrying penalties of up to €10,000 and jail terms of up to 15 years. Accordingly, Maria faced a criminal investigation under this law and was detained.


"No one should be detained solely for expressing their opinions, let alone be kept without contact with the outside world. She must face no reprisals for bravely exercising her right to freedom of expression." Marie Struthers, Amnesty International's Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia commented.


The new law acts as a suppressant against civil turmoil, which effectively led to the arrest of over 13 000 Russian protestors just within 2 weeks from the start of the Ukrainian invasion. This was provided by OVD-Info, an independent human rights media project aimed at combating political persecution. Accordingly, reports claim that authorities have used excessive force against protestors, involving truncheons and stun guns.


One of the arrested protestors was Yelena Osipova (77), an artist who has been protesting for 2 decades against injustice and tragedy in Russia, who on 20 March was spotted alone holding up 2 large protest signs at Chernyshevskaya metro station. Subsequently, she has been dubbed by locals as the “Conscience of St Petersburg”. Her first protests followed the 2002 Nord Ost siege, where militants held an entire theatre in Moscow hostage and security forces used toxic gas to neutralise terrorists which killed hundreds of civilians trapped inside. Since then, she has taken to the streets many times over human rights violations, including the Beslan school tragedy, where security forces stormed a school building which terrorists had taken hostage of, leading to hundreds of deaths of school children.


"I must have seen the inside of every police precinct in the city over all these years. Since 2002 I've been in all of them many times."


In a subtler form of protest, on 8 March (International Women's Day), Russian women left flowers at Soviet war memorials. Chrysanthemums and tulips were bound with blue and yellow ribbons, representing the Ukrainian flag. This action was led by the Feminist Anti-War Resistance group.


The Feminist Anti-War Resistance put out a statement, saying: "We, the women of Russia, refuse to celebrate March 8 this year: don't give us flowers, it's better to take to the streets and lay them in memory of the dead civilians of Ukraine".


These subtler forms of resistance by Russian citizens have also involved anti-war graffiti and even ice carving on the Moyka river. However, these have been met with a negative response: Russian 'patriots' graffitied 'Z' on top of the anti-war graffiti, which is a symbol used by Russian military vehicles entering Ukraine, and authorities partially painted over the ice carving with cyan then covered it with dirt.


With regard to the modernisation of Russian cities sponsored by the Kremlin since 2011, perhaps such anti-war displays stain the idyllic vision of a beautiful city renovated to garner support from citizens. Perhaps such artistic acts of rebellion threaten to shatter this mirage…



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