Thousands of Russians arrested for protesting against Putin’s war on Ukraine, human rights group says

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While Russia’s war on Ukraine encounters more resistance than expected on the battlefield, the Russian government detained more than 3,000 domestic protesters for pushing back against it at home.

According to the human rights group OVD-Info, Russian security forces detained 3,093 people between Thursday when the anti-war protests began in its cities and early Sunday morning. Crowds in Moscow and St. Petersburg gathered in the streets last week, with some chanting “no war.”

Another anti-war protest broke out in Moscow Sunday as well, and police beat the demonstrators.

Photos taken by the Associated Press showed officers cracking down on demonstrators.

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The arrests come as Russian leaders continue to be frustrated by slower-than-expected gains in their invasion of Ukraine, according to American officials.

“We also continue to see indications of viable Ukrainian resistance we continue to believe based on what we’ve observed that this resistance is greater than what the Russians expected, and they are getting visibly frustrated,” a senior US defense official said Saturday evening.

“We still believe that Russia has yet to achieve air superiority. Ukrainian air defenses, including aircraft do continue to be operable and continue to engage and deny access to Russian aircraft in places over the country,” the senior official added.

The Ukrainian government is handing out rifles to citizens to fight the Russian invaders. Photos and video shared online show citizens and soldiers fighting Russian troops, and in some cases succeeding in taking out Russian vehicles.

A person carries a banner during an anti-war protest, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Moscow, Russia February 24, 2022. The banner reads

A person carries a banner during an anti-war protest, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Moscow, Russia prisoners February 24, 2022. The banner reads “No war. Freedom for political”.
(REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina)

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According to the United Kingdom’s defense ministry, intelligence Sunday morning indicated that “Russian forces are continuing to advance into Ukraine from multiple axis but are continuing to be met with stiffed resistance from the Ukrainian Armed Forces.”

The defense ministry also said “strong resistance in Chernihiv” led Russian forces to simply bypass the area “to prioritize the encirclement of Kyiv.”

Meanwhile, western governments are hitting Russia with increasingly harsh sanctions and flooding more military assistance to the Ukrainian government. The US Saturday announced it would cut many Russian banks out of the international SWIFT banking system.

A person is detained by police during an anti-war protest, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Moscow, Russia February 24, 2022.

A person is detained by police during an anti-war protest, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Moscow, Russia February 24, 2022.
(REUTERS/Denis Kaminev)

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The sanctions are not as broad as they could be. Officials are trying to exempt energy transactions so as not to cause oil and gas prices to skyrocket, particularly in Europe where even NATO countries are reliant on Russian energy.

But sanctions are hitting Russia’s central bank and Russian President Vladimir Putin himself, and a senior US administration official said the measures are turning Russia into “a global economic and financial pariah” despite their measured nature.

On the military front, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday that the US will give Ukraine “up to $350 million for immediate support to Ukraine’s defense.” Blinken said the assistance will include “lethal defensive assistance” against both armored and airborne threats.

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And in a surprise move, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced Saturday that his country is providing Ukraine with 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 stinger missiles.

Despite a slower-than-expected first part of their invasion, Russian forces are expected to eventually overtake the Ukrainian defenders due to the overall strength of Russia’s massive military. But even then, it may be a tall task for the Russians to hold onto Ukraine amid a potential insurgency, which is likely to also be supported by the West.

Fox News’ James Levinson, Danielle Wallace and Edward Lawrence contributed to this report.

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