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Some Russians Won’t Halt War Protests, Despite Arrest Fears | World News

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Anastasia began her day by composing an anti-war message and posting it on the wall at the entrance to her apartment block in the industrial city of Perm in the Ural Mountains.

“Don’t believe the propaganda you see on TV, read the independent media!” One reads “Violence and death have been with us for three months now – take care of yourself”.

The 31-year-old teacher, who asked to be identified only by her first name because she feared for her safety, said she wanted “a safe and easy way to get a message.”

“I couldn’t do anything huge and public,” he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “I want people to think. And I think we should influence any space the way we can.”

Political cartoons on world leaders

Political cartoons

Despite widespread government crackdowns on such protests, some have remained steadfast in speaking out against Russian aggression – even in the simplest way.

Some have paid exorbitant prices. In the early days of the attack in February, on winter days, authorities quickly moved to withdraw the protests, arresting those who marched or even held blank signs or other oblique references to the conflict. Critical media outlets were shut down as the government sought to control the narrative. Political opponents were singled out by President Vladimir Putin or commentators on state-run TV.

Lawmakers have declared it illegal to spread “false information” about rubber-stamped measures that the Kremlin calls “special military operations” and insults the military, using them against those who speak out against the attack or speak out against the brutality of Russian troops. Committed

As the war dragged on in Russia’s lazy summer days, some, like Anastasia, felt guilty that they could do nothing more to resist the attack, even within the confines of the new law.

When Russian troops entered Ukraine on February 24, Anastasia said her first thought was to sell all her property and move abroad, but she soon changed her mind.

“This is my country, why should I leave?” He told the AP. “I realized I had to create something to help me out of here.”

Moscow-based printer and artist Sergei Besov also felt he could not remain silent. Even before the attack, the 45-year-old was making posters reflecting the political scene and plastering around the capital.

When the Russians voted in a constitutional amendment two years ago to allow Putin to seek two more terms after 2024, Besov used his old printing press to print posters with thick wooden Cyrillic type and vintage red ink that simply said: “Against.”

During Belarus’ unrest for a controversial presidential election in 2020 and subsequent crackdowns on protesters, he created a poster in Belarus calling it “independence.”

After the invasion of Ukraine, his project, the Partisan Press, began making posters “not to fight” – the main anti-war slogan. The video of the poster being printed became popular on Instagram and the demand for copies was so high that they were given away for free.

After using some of his posters in a demonstration in Red Square and arresting some people who displayed them, it became clear that the police would “definitely come to us,” Besov said.

They appeared when Besov was not there, printing the poster used in it and accusing two of his employees of taking part in an unauthorized rally.

The case has dragged on for more than three months, he said, putting a lot of pressure on all of them about whether they will be punished and how much.

Besov stopped printing “No to War” posters and went for subtle messages such as “Fear is not an excuse to do something.”

He thinks it’s important to keep talking.

“The problem is we don’t know where the lines were drawn,” Besov said. “It’s known they can judge you for some things, but some manage to fly under the radar. Where is this line? It’s too bad and really hard. “

Sasha Skochilenko, a 31-year-old St. Petersburg artist and musician who failed to stay under the radar and found it a relatively safe way to spread the word about the horrors of war, faced serious consequences: she was arrested in a supermarket Contains small tags.

“The Russian army has bombed an art school in Mariupol. About 400 people were hiding in it from the shells, ”one read.

“Russian recruits are being sent to Ukraine. The lives of our children are worth this fight, “said another.

Skochilenko was really affected by the war, says his partner Sophia Subotina.

“He had friends in Kiev who were taking refuge on the subway and calling him, talking about the horror going on there,” Subotina told the AP.

In 2020, Skochilenko taught acting and filmmaking in a children’s camp in Ukraine and was worried about how the conflict would affect his alumni.

“He was really scared for these children, their lives were in danger because of the war, they were being bombed, and he couldn’t keep quiet,” said Subotina.

Skochilenko has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for spreading false information about the Russian military.

“It was a shock to us that they started a criminal case, and a case that carries a horrific sentence of 5 to 10 years,” Subotina said. “In our country, small sentences are given for murder.”

Associated Press writer Francesca Abel contributed.

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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