“This, even in Russia, is illegal as hell,” says Meduza editor Kevin Rothrock of the clip below. Technically, perhaps, but the state of Russian law right now is as fluid as the state of the Russian economy and the state of the Russian military. What used to be legal no longer is. Go figure that what used to be illegal is suddenly fair game.
Police officers in Moscow today are stopping people, demanding to see their phones, READING THEIR MESSAGES, and refusing to release them if they refuse. This from Kommersant journalist Ana Vasilyeva. https://t.co/E8oBw3XPz1 pic.twitter.com/rxk7AmdzOp
— Kevin Rothrock (@KevinRothrock) March 6, 2022
Zelensky appealed to the Russian people in a new video to make their voices heard: “If you keep silent now, only your poverty will speak for you later. And only repression will answer.” Some heeded that call. Per Reuters, around 3,500 people were arrested in Russia today for protesting the war:
Today, anti-war protests are being held throughout Russia. Keep in mind every single protester you see risks a 15-year sentence for speaking out today. A snapshot:
— Eva Hartog (@EvaHartog) March 6, 2022
Wow, thousands of people in the streets of St. Petersburg chanting "Ukraine is not our enemy" pic.twitter.com/BivhCgNpPw
— Read The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin (@JoshuaPotash) March 6, 2022
Examples are being made of women protesters to signal zero tolerance for dissent:
– I survived the blockade of Leningrad. My father died on the frontline. My mother died, I was lying next to my dead mother. My elder brothers died.
– Did you come here to defend the fascists?
– What? We have friends in Ukraine, hiding in cellars.
– Arrest them all.
In Moscow. https://t.co/J6yLh2z46h
— Leonid Ragozin (@leonidragozin) March 6, 2022
Russian police take a woman who took part in an anti-war protest in St. Petersburg pic.twitter.com/zNpGDYlNfU
— sarah (@Sarah__Penez) March 6, 2022
Watch this report from ABC correspondent James Longman, on the scene in central Moscow as huge numbers of riot police and “silent” protesters circle each other:
The security presence in Moscow is extraordinary. But there are groups of people here, quietly making their presence known. Not shouting or screaming in protest. Just walking. Eerie. pic.twitter.com/qFhcdI0YWD
— James Longman (@JamesAALongman) March 6, 2022
Why the heavy police presence? Because: Anything can happen at this point. Russia’s economy has been crushed; its offensive in Ukraine looks inept and extravagantly costly; its relationships with major powers have been shattered with the exception of an increasingly ambivalent China. No one knows what tomorrow will bring or how the Russian people will react to it. Putin’s government is in a defensive crouch from which it’s unlikely to emerge for months or years.
As the chaos deepens, the degree of authoritarianism implemented to keep order will deepen too.
Russians with the means to do so are racing for the exits:
Every time something terrible happens — when Putin’s critics go to jail, get poisoned or shot, say — Russians bring up the symbolic date of 1937. There had never been a darker period in Russian history than the Great Purge, the peak of political repressions, when Josef Stalin’s NKVD arrested more than a million people and executed hundreds of thousands. Shainyan, for one, hated that comparison. But this week, it started to feel more appropriate, even to him. It was hard not to draw comparisons between the Duma’s proposals to punish all war critics with 15 years of jail for “fake news” and Stalin’s repressions. Everyone knew how dark, how murderous things could go. The choice to flee or stay was now a matter of survival.
By Thursday, the exodus became so chaotic, there were hardly any good friends left in the city. “Even if you told me yesterday morning that I should leave, I would not have listened to you. But now all of us either face conscription [into the military] or 15 years behind bars,” Shainyan told me on Thursday, boarding the plane with his boyfriend. Some mothers tried to convince their sons to run, others begged to their boys to stay and not abandon them. “This is going to be worse than the USSR. Putin will never stop fighting,” Svetlana Ozerova, a nurse from Kitai Gorod, told me…
Thursday night was a nightmare. People were constantly messaging each other with a variation of the same question: “Have you crossed the border? Are you out?”
What’s happening in Russia at the moment is as much of a black box as what’s happening in Ukraine. Amid the crackdown on criticism of the war and the heavy-handed censorship being practiced to suppress information, it’s anyone’s guess how much the average Russian understands what’s happening and whether they’d admit it if they did. Is this clip evidence of brainwashing or merely evidence that Russians know what they can and can’t say when a camera is pointed at them?
"No one is bombing Kyiv. I don't believe it." Many Russians are fed a daily media diet of Kremlin propaganda that hides the terrible human cost of their country's invasion of Ukraine.
— Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (@RFERL) March 4, 2022
Here’s what they’re missing:
Pure horror: Russian soldiers are deliberately killing Ukrainian civilians trying to flee. A mother & 2 children were killed and father wounded by a mortar shell as hundreds of civilians sought safety. @nytimes photographer Lynsey Addario witnessed it. https://t.co/aDdkZt321B pic.twitter.com/Byp3VSd2n6
— Edward Wong (@ewong) March 6, 2022
Suppressing evidence of the war’s horrors is one way to minimize domestic unrest. Another is to ratchet nationalist propaganda way, way up:
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill unsurprisingly endorsing Putin’s narrative on Ukraine in a sermon today. According to him the West essentially organises genocide campaigns against countries that refuse to stage gay parades 🤯 pic.twitter.com/mXc89tXj4m
— Matthew Luxmoore (@mjluxmoore) March 6, 2022
Let's discuss what's happening in Russia. To put it simply, it's going full fascist. Authorities launched a propaganda campaign to gain popular support for their invasion of Ukraine and they're getting lots of it. You can see "Z" on these guys' clothes. What does it mean? 🧵 pic.twitter.com/F2zjcpJCDZ
— Kamil Galeev (@kamilkazani) March 6, 2022
Putin took a decision to start this war. But he got a wide support of the Russian people. Nobody’s forcing them to participate in these shows of support, they could totally skip it. But they cheer. They cheer, because they feel good, they feel proud. Russia became great again pic.twitter.com/XkFHTlDq6m
— Kamil Galeev (@kamilkazani) March 6, 2022
The “Z” is a symbol that’s been painted on Russian military vehicles in Ukraine. Putin’s supporters have adopted it as their own to show solidarity with the war effort, as Galeev documents in this thread. Is he right that the Russian people are rallying behind the war effort or is that perception a Potemkin village constructed by Putin to convince anti-war Russians that they’re a negligible minority and shouldn’t bother resisting? Your guess is as good as mine.
But given how many goons were on patrol in Moscow today, it seems like Putin isn’t sure of the answer either. Stay tuned.
I’ll leave you with this. Was this guy speaking under duress by Ukraine or just unburdening himself now that he’s off the battlefield? Either way, he’s never going back to Russia.
This, out of #Ukraine, is 100% one of the most incredible videos I have ever seen.
This Russian POW has the heart of a lion 🦁 pic.twitter.com/KIx1rsN0CZ
— Jackie Singh 🇺🇦 🇺🇸 (@hackingbutlegal) March 6, 2022