The fear of arrests does not stop the protests of the Russians against the invasion of Ukraine

Sasha Skochilenko, a 31-year-old artist, arrested in a St. Petersburg court after adulterating labels in a supermarket with anti-war messages (AP)

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Anastasia starts the day by writing an anti-war message and hanging it on the entrance wall of her apartment block. in the industrial city of Perm, in the Ural Mountains.

Don’t believe the propaganda you see on TV, read independent media!”, says one. “Violence and death have been with us constantly for three months: take care of yourselves,” says another.

The 31-year-old teacher, who asked to be identified only by name because she fears for her safety, said she wanted “a safe and simple method to get the message out.”

I couldn’t do something big and public“, said to AP in a telephone interview. “I want to make people think. And I think we should influence any space, any way we can.”.

Despite massive government crackdowns on such acts of protest, some Russians have continued to speak out against the invasion, even in the simplest of ways.

In this file image, a detained protester shows the phrase
A detained protester displays the phrase “No to war!” written on a mask, from a police bus, in St. Petersburg (AP)

Many of them have paid a high price. In the first wintry days of the invasion in February, authorities moved quickly to quell demonstrations, arresting those who participated or even displayed blank signs or other veiled references to the conflict. Critical outlets were shut down as the government sought to control information. Political opponents were singled out by President Vladimir Putin or by a commentator on state television.

Lawmakers passed measures banning the spread of “false information” about what the Kremlin called a “special military operation” and smearing the army, and used them against anyone who spoke out against the attack or alleged atrocities committed by troops. russians

As the war reaches the languid days of the Russian summer, some like Anastasia feel guilty that they cannot do more to oppose the invasioneven within the limits of the new laws.

When Russian troops entered Ukraine on February 24, Anastasia said her first thought was to sell all her possessions and move abroad, but she soon changed her mind. “This is my country, why would I leave?” she said to the AP. “I understood that I had to stay and create something to help from here”.

In this combo photo of six notes reading, left to right: Russia will be free,” “Violence and death have been constantly with us for three months now – take care of yourselves,” “A mall in Kremenchuk. What for? Why?”, “No” on the wall at the entrance of an apartment block in Perm, Russia, Tuesday, July 5, 2022. Ever since Russia sent its troops into Ukraine, Anastasia has started her day by composing her messages and posting them on the wall at the entrance of an apartment block in the industrial city of Perm. (AP Photo)” height=”1277″ src=”” width=”1920″ />
Messages posted in a housing complex in Perm: “No violence in any form”, “I hope this will all end soon”, “A shopping center in Kremenchuk, why?”, or simply “no” (AP)

Sergei Besov, a Moscow-based printer and artist, also felt that he could not remain silent. Even before the invasion, this 45-year-old activist made posters reflecting the political scene and put them up all over the capital.

When Russians voted two years ago in favor of constitutional amendments allowing Putin to stand for re-election for two more terms after 2024, Besov used his old printing press with heavy Cyrillic wood type and old red ink to print signs that read only “Against!”

During the demonstrations in Belarus in 2020 after a controversial presidential election and subsequent crackdown, he made posters with the word “Freedom” in Belarusian.

After the invasion of Ukraine, his project, Partisan Press, he began to make posters with the phrase “No to war”, the main anti-war slogan. The video of the printing of the plates went viral on Instagram, and the demand for copies was such that they were given away.

Sergei Besov, a Moscow-based print artist poses for a photo holding a poster reads
Sergei Besov poses with a sign that says “Everyone needs peace” (AP) (Alexander Zemlianichenko /)

After some of his posters were used in a demonstration in Red Square and some of those who carried them were arrested, it became clear that the police “would inevitably come for us”, Besov stated.

They appeared when he was not, accusing two of its employees of participating in an unauthorized demonstration by printing the posters used in it.

In case it has been going on for more than three months, he added, causing a lot of stress about whether and to what extent they will be punished.

Besov has stopped producing the “No War” posters and opt for more subtle messages like “Fear is not an excuse to do nothing.” He believes it is important to keep raising your voice.

“The problem is that we don’t know where the limits are,” he said. “It is known that you can be prosecuted for certain things, but some have managed to go unnoticed. Where is the limit? It is very bad and it is really difficult”.

Sasha Skochilenko, a 31-year-old musician and artist from St. Petersburg, failed to avoid the authorities and faces dire consequences for what she believed was a relatively safe way to spread the horrors of war: she was arrested for replacing five labels in a supermarket with smaller ones bearing anti-war messages.

“The Russian army bombed an art school in Mariupol. Some 400 people were hiding there from the shelling,” said one. “Russian recruits are being sent to Ukraine. The lives of our children are the price of this war, ”said another.

Skochilenko was really affected by the war, said her partner, Sophia Subbotina. “She had friends in kyiv who were sheltered in the subway and they called her, telling her about the horror that was happening there”, Subbotina told the AP.

In this file image, police officers detain protesters in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on February 24, 2022. When Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine, a wave of outrage and opposition to the war swept the country. country.  (AP Photo, File)
In this file image, police officers detain protesters in St. Petersburg, at the start of the invasion (AP)
FILE - Demonstrators shout slogans in St. Petersburg, Russia, Feb. 25, 2022. When President Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine, a massive wave of outrage and anti-war sentiment swept Russia.  The Kremlin in response insisted that what it called a “special military operation” in Ukraine attracted overwhelming public support, and moved swiftly to suppress any dissent.  (AP Photo, File)

In 2020, Skochilenko taught acting and film classes at a children’s camp in Ukraine and was concerned about how the conflict would affect her former students.

He was very afraid for those children, because their lives were in danger because of the war, because the bombs would fall on them, and he could not remain silent.”, Subbotina pointed out.

Skochilenko faces up to 10 years in prison on charges of spreading false information about the Russian military.

It was a surprise to us to learn that they had opened a criminal case, and a case that carries a monstrous prison sentence of 5 to 10 years.Subbotina said. “In our country, shorter sentences are handed down for murder.”

(With information from AP)

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