Despite arrest fears, some Russians will not stop war protests

Anastasia started every day since Russia invaded Ukraine by writing an anti-war message, and posting it on her apartment block's wall in Perm in Ural Mountains.

Despite arrest fears, some Russians will not stop war protests

Anastasia started every day since Russia invaded Ukraine by writing an anti-war message, and posting it on her apartment block's wall in Perm in Ural Mountains.

One said, "Don't believe the TV propaganda! Read independent media!" Another reads, "Violence has been with us continuously for three months now -- take good care of yourself."

The teacher at 31 years old, who requested to remain anonymous because of her security concerns, stated that she needed "a simple and safe way to get her message across."

In a telephone interview, she said that "I couldn’t do anything large and public." "I want people to think. "I believe we should have an influence on any space in any way that we can."

Despite the massive government crackdown, some Russians continued to protest the invasion -- even in the most basic of ways.

Some have had to pay a heavy price. Authorities acted quickly in the wintry days following the February invasion to stop demonstrations and arrest those who held blank signs or made other indirect references to the conflict. As the government tried to control the narrative, critical media outlets were closed. Vladimir Putin and commentators on state-run television singled out political opponents.

Lawmakers approved measures to ban the spreading of "false info" about what the Kremlin called "special military operations" and discredit the military. They also used them against anyone who spoke against the attack or discussed the atrocities that the Russian troops were accused of committing.

Some, like Anastasia, feel guilty about not being able to do more to resist the invasion as the war drags on into the lazy days of a Russian summer.

Anastasia thought that she would sell her possessions to move abroad when Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24th. But, soon afterward, her thoughts changed.

"It's my land, why should it be mine?" She told AP. "I knew I had to stay and do something to help others from here."

Sergei Besov was a Moscow-based artist and printer. He also felt that he could not remain silent. The 45-year old was already making posters about the political scene and plastering them all over the capital, even before the invasion.

Two years ago, when Russians voted on constitutional amendments that would allow Putin to seek two additional terms after 2024 ended, Besov used an old printing press with heavy wooden Cyrillic typeface and vintage red ink to print posters saying "Against."

During the unrest in Belarus in 2020 over a disputed presidential vote and the subsequent crackdown, he created posters in Belarusian that said "Freedom".

His project, Partisan Press made posters that said "No to War" after the invasion of Ukraine. The poster was captured on Instagram and became so popular that copies were offered free of charge to anyone who wanted them.

Besov stated that some of his posters were displayed at a demonstration on Red Square. Some people who were displaying them were also arrested.

They arrived when Besov was not there and charged two of his employees with participation in an illegal rally by printing the poster.

He said that the case has been dragging on for more than three months. This has caused all parties a lot of stress about whether or not they will be punished and in what manner.

Besov stopped printing "No to War" posters and opted for subtler messages like "Fear isn't an excuse to do nothing."

He believes it is important to continue speaking out.

Besov stated that "The problem is that we don't know exactly where the lines are drawn." While it is well-known that certain charges can be brought against you, some people manage to slip under the radar. This is the line. It's very difficult and terrible."

Sasha Skochilenko (31-year-old musician and artist in St. Petersburg) was caught replacing five price tags in a supermarket's grocery store with small ones with anti-war slogans.

"The Russian army attacked an arts school in Mariupol." It was home to around 400 people, according to one report.

"Russian conscripts have been sent to Ukraine. Another one said that the war is costing lives of children.

Sophia Subbotina, her partner, stated that Skochilenko was deeply affected by the war.

Subbotina said that she had friends in Kyiv, who were hiding in the subway and calling Subbotina to talk about the horror going on there.

Skochilenko, who was a teacher of acting and filmmaking in a Ukrainian children's camp, worried about the impact on her former students.

Subbotina stated, "She was afraid for these kids, that their lives would be in danger because war, that bombs had been falling on them, she couldn't keep silent."

Skochilenko could spend up to 10 years prison for spreading false information about Russia's army.

Subbotina stated, "It was shocking for us that they launched an criminal case and a case which implies a monstrous jail term of 5-10 years." For murder, sentences in our country are shorter.


Francesca Ebel, Associated Press writer, contributed.