Nearly 1,400 people are reported to have been arrested across major cities in Russia in protests sparked by Vladimir Putin’s decision to introduce a “partial mobilisation” for the war in Ukraine.
Independent protest monitoring group OVD-Info said the arrests had taken place during protests in 38 Russian cities, including Moscow and St Petersburg.
“I’m not afraid of anything. The most valuable thing that they can take from us is the life of our children. I won’t give them the life of my child,” said one Moscow protester.
A woman protesting in Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city, was heard shouting: “Goddamn bald-headed ‘nut job’. He’s going to drop a bomb on us, and we’re all still protecting him. I’ve said enough.”
The Moscow prosecutor’s office on Wednesday warned that encouraging others to join the street protests, or participation in them, could be punished with up to 15 years in jail.
This is under laws banning the spreading of what the Kremlin calls “fake news” over its war in Ukraine or other associated laws.
Jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny was among those calling for mass demonstrations against the mobilisation.
Shortly after Putin’s announcement of a partial mobilisation of an initial 300,000 army reservists on Wednesday, flights out of the country quickly filled up.
The price for flights from Moscow to Istanbul or Dubai reached as high as 9,200 euros (£8,042) for a one-way economy class fare.
The protests came as Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, vowed in an address to the United Nations General Assembly his forces would not stop until all of Ukraine’s land was recovered.
“We can return the Ukrainian flag to our entire territory. We can do it with the force of arms," Mr Zelensky said in a speech delivered in English. “But we need time."
Putin’s decision to partially mobilise means people with previous military experience will join the war unless they are too old or medically unfit.
The decree, published on the Kremlin website, said they would get extra training before being sent to fight.
The Russian leader made a veiled threat to the West on Wednesday morning, warning that nuclear-armed Russia would use all means at its disposal if its territory was threatened.
“I am not bluffing,” he said. He also approved referendums in four Ukrainian regions under Russian occupation.
They are scheduled to take place from 23 to 27 September. Together, the regions make up about 15% of Ukrainian territory.