Pussy Riot founder heralds huge anti-war movement in Russia: ‘Much bigger than you can see’



Pussy Riot founder and Kremlin-critic Nadya Tolokonnikova has said that she has been heartened by seeing her fellow Russians take to the streets in protest of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Since protesting the government in Russia means putting yourself at risk of considerable jail time and physical abuse, Ms Tolokonnikova told CNN on Sunday that the number of Russians who are against the war is likely to be much higher than the number of people seen protesting in the streets.

“One thing we need to understand about Russians opposing the war in Ukraine is the numbers of people who are against [the] war are actually much higher than those you can see on the streets because the price of participating in protest activity is increasingly high, especially [becoming] incredibly dangerous over the last week,” she said on State of the Union.

“People are facing jail time, up to 15 years, according to the new law, even for tweets and stories and posting on social media. You can go to jail for up to 15 years. And, by going to [the] streets, you’re actually exposing yourself to a greater danger,” she added. “But knowing that and seeing that thousands of people are still going to the streets and getting arrested shows that Russians, a lot of Russians are actually against the war.”

She added: “And it was incredible to see Alexei Navalny, who is the biggest enemy of the Kremlin, opposition leader, who’s in jail right now. I have asked people to go to the streets every day, 2pm every weekday and 7pm on the weekend.”

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After taking part in an anti-Putin protest in 2012, she served more than 21 months in prison.

“People who I know, they’re extremely mad, but also, at the same time, a lot of them are terrified,” Ms Tolokonnikova told CNN. “For example, a week ago, police beat a friend of my daughter. My daughter is 14. Her friend of her is 14 as well. And she went with her dad to an anti-war protest. And police started to beat her. And her dad de ella came to the policemen and asked, ‘What are you doing? She’s 14. Don’t do that.’”

(Statista/The Independent)

“And instead of beating the kid, policemen switched to beating the dad, and then the dad ended up in a police station for a couple of days, pretty brutally beaten,” she added.

“And situations like that, they’re, unfortunately, happening quite often. That’s why I know that a lot of Russians are trying to leave the country. But, also, there are a number of people who are convinced that they should not leave, because they don’t want to give Russia as a gift to Putin. They want to stand their ground,” Ms Tolokonnikova said.

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Mr Navalny – an anti-corruption campaigner turned politician – has organized protests from prison. He almost died after being poisoned by a nerve agent, an act he has blamed on the Kremlin. He was subsequently jailed for two and a half years on what were widely seen as politically motivated charges.

The opposition leader has called on all Russians all over the world to protest the war.

“Show the world that Russians don’t want war. Come out in the squares of Berlin, New York, Amsterdam or Melbourne, wherever you are. Now we are all responsible for Russia’s future. For what Russia will be in the eyes of the world,” Mr Navalny wrote in a blog post on Sunday, Reuters reported.

More than 4,300 people were arrested across Russia on Sunday for taking part in anti-war protests, according to an independent protest monitoring organisation. The Russian interior department claimed that the number was 3,500, Reuters reported.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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