On the night of February 23, Ukrainian wartime president Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the nation and, at the end of his speech, turned to Russian citizens. “Do the Russians want this war? The answer depends on you,” he said. The next day, the answer came with a vengeance.
The night of February 23–24, 2022
At around 9 pm Moscow time, Putin ordered the military special operation to commence on sovereign Ukrainian land. Overnight and in the early morning hours, Russians met the news with dismay. At 5:25 am, Meduza, an independent Russian media outlet, released an editorial calling for peace, concluding: “Let’s stop this. It’s never too late to stop a war.” At 5:28 am, Dmitry Muratov, editor in chief of Novaya Gazeta, released an address stating that “only a Russian-led anti-war movement will save life on this planet.” Numerous outlets and individual journalists followed suit, including TV Rain, calling on its audience to speak up, and Echo of Moscow, denouncing the war as shameful.
February 24, 2022
Later in the day, a letter from scientists, academics, and scholars followed; it was published on the Echo of Moscow website. As of right now, the letter has 644 signatories and this number continues to grow. Multiple open letters like this one appeared throughout the day, including potentially the least expected one—100 municipal politicians from across Russia, people within Putin’s government, released a statement calling for the war to end.
In the early evening, people began coming out onto the streets. More than 20 Russian cities saw anti-war protests, including mass demonstrations in Moscow and St. Petersburg. According to OVD-Info, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting political prisoners in Russia, at least 1,734 peaceful protesters were detained by the police. A show of protest continued throughout the night, as graffiti and posters calling for “no war” were left all around Moscow, including near Red Square and the Kremlin and on the entrance gates of the parliament.
February 25, 2022
On this day at least 574 Russians have been arrested for protesting the war in Ukraine, according to OVD-Info. These numbers were reported in large cities and might be larger, given the protests happening in smaller cities and towns across the country. On Change.org a petition was published to call for Putin’s war on Ukraine to end and, as of right now, it has over half-a-million signatures, many of which appear to have come from Russian citizens.
February 26, 2022
According to OVD-Info, the anti-war protests continued across Russia, and as of Saturday evening at least 3,000 people have been arrested. Many of them will be in jail for 15 days on administrative charges or fined; the fines thus far add up to 750,000 rubles.
February 27, 2022
As of 6 am GMT+3 (i.e. Moscow time), over 800,000 people have signed* the anti-war petition on Change.org set up on February 25.
Moreover, there have been many new open letters and independent petitions published across the Russian Internet. According to Novaya Gazeta, those petitioning included—yet weren’t limited to—medical workers, graduate and undergraduate students from Russian colleges, architects, scientists, academics, journalists, social studies professors and scholars, cinematographers and others within the movie industry, and numerous nonprofits, including the hospice foundation Vera.
By evening, OVD-Info was reporting about at least 5,611 detainees at the anti-war protests, counted over the course of the past three days.
*At the time of this article’s publication, the petition stands at 95,1000 signatures, with the numbers on the counter increasing continuously.