Putin’s Police Crackdown on Anti-War Protests in 17 Russian Cities

On April 2, more than 200 people were imprisoned in 17 Russian cities for protesting the invasion of Ukraine. Most occurred in the capital, Moscow (about 80 people), and St. Petersburg (about 70), according to NGOs monitoring political persecution in the country [1].
By Américo Gomes
Putin’s police did not allow the demonstrators, gathered on a bridge in St. Petersburg, to reach the Legislative Assembly. They were violently dispersed by Russian troops while singing the national anthem.
Organizers said the protests are against the collapse of the economy and against the Russian president. They also demanded the release of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
According to OVD-Info, police have imprisoned more than 15,000 people in Russia since protests against the war on Ukraine began. “We have not seen such a large number of detainees in one day (…) We counted at least 6,489 detainees in five days. That is enough to show us the number of people willing to take to the streets and express their opinions.”
Despite Russian state repression, opposition to the war against Ukraine is gaining support. While some continue to demonstrate publicly, others are setting up back-channel bases on the Internet and circumventing restrictions using social networks, encrypted messages, and VPN servers.
Fear of repression led only a minority of Russians to speak out publicly. But the anti-war movement is gaining support on the internet, mainly through social networks and encrypted messaging services, such as Telegram and Signal.
Along with street demonstrations, the most significant of the initiatives is a Change.org petition, entitled “Stop the War with Ukraine.” This surpassed one million signatures. The petition calls for “an immediate ceasefire of the Russian armed forces and their immediate withdrawal from the territory of the sovereign state of Ukraine.”
These protests are very important. Lenin argued that the revolutionary defeatism of a nation’s own bourgeoisie was a strategic policy of the proletariat and that the enemy of the workers is within their own country.
“Defeatism is the class policy of the proletariat, which even during a war sees the main enemy at home, within its particular imperialist country. Patriotism, on the other hand, is a policy that locates the main enemy outside one’s own country. The idea of defeatism signifies in reality the following: conducting an irreconcilable revolutionary struggle against one’s own bourgeoisie as the main enemy, without being deterred by the fact that this struggle may result in the defeat of one’s own government; given a revolutionary movement the defeat of one’s own government is a lesser evil” [2].
Within Russia, the anti-war demonstrations are fundamental and can lead to the defeat of the invasion, as happened in Vietnam with the American army.
Putin knows and fears these mobilizations, and that is why the repression against these demonstrators is brutal. His government recently adopted a new law that threatens prison sentences of up to 15 years for spreading “false news” about his military or calling for sanctions against the country.
Putin recently announced that he will carry out a purification to “cleanse Russia of scum and traitors,” announcing that people will disappear “on their own.”
Anti-war sentiment may become more inflamed as more Russian soldiers and conscripts lose their lives in the fighting with the Ukrainian military resistance.
The youth movement “Vesna” (Spring) was among those who commented on the demonstrations: “People are afraid, that’s true. The authorities used enormous resources in a campaign of intimidation. But in reality, there are many Russians against the war. It is important to find avenues and activities for the antiwar movement and push through the demands of the antiwar movement. We are not allowed to gather in public places, but we can continue to agitate with leaflets, stickers, sashes, performances, and other means. For example, Mariupol 500 action, which is safer than a street protest.”
The action “Mariupol 500” organized by the “Feminist Anti-War Resistance,” calls activists to put crosses in front of their homes, in Russia, in memory of those killed in Mariupol, as a sign of protest.
We give all our support to the Russian youth and workers who took to the streets against the war despite Putin’s violent repression.
These demonstrations should be encouraged to develop into mass actions and strikes, and even desertions, as in the First War or as happened with the Portuguese Army in the struggles for the independence of the colonies in Africa.
These demonstrations, allied to the Ukrainian armed resistance and the international solidarity of our class, are stopping Putin’s offensive and can defeat him in this war.
[1] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10679237/More-200-arrested-today-anti-war-protests-17-cities-Russia.html
[2] Leon Trotsky, “A Step Towards Social Patriotism,” 1939.

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