Russian police has arrested over dozens of metro passengers Monday in what appeared to be raid to control mass actions on Russia’s National Flag Day.
The arrests come at a time when anti-war activism has been effectively outlawed under legislation passed shortly after Russia sent army into neighbouring Ukraine.
OVD-Info, a police-monitoring website that runs a legal hotline for those arrested, said 33 activists and journalists were arrested across the Russian capital’s metro system.
As per reports, some of them were flagged for detention by the Moscow Metro’s facial recognition technology.
One journalist held in a southern Moscow police station said at one point police sirens went off “once a minute” with the detention of another person.
As per OVD-Info, three of the arrested passengers had earlier been charged under Russia’s laws against anti-war speech since the nation invaded Ukraine in February. At least one activist was detained twice in the morning and evening.
Majority of the activists and journalists have been released later without being charged. One was reportedly charged with “discrediting the Russian army” for wearing clothes and said “I am against war.”
Criticizing the war or sharing non-Kremlin-approved information about it are both punishable under new legislation passed shortly after the invasion.
As per information, over 15,000 anti-war protesters have been arrested around Russia since President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Major Putin critics Ilya Yashin and Vladimir Kara-Murza were placed in pre-trial detention for denouncing Moscow’s Ukraine offensive. They are among 212 mostly private citizens facing criminal prosecution for voicing opposition to the war.
All of Russia’s independent media has been blocked or shut down since February, with many journalists fleeing the country to escape prosecution.
Russian authorities have blocked some 138,000 websites, outlawed Facebook and Instagram as “extremist” organizations, and restricted access to Twitter since the war began.
The National Flag Day detentions follow similar police actions on Victory Day and Russia Day in Moscow and around the country in May and June.
National Flag Day has been celebrated every year on August 22 since then-President Boris Yeltsin re-introduced it in 1994.