A man plays piano as people walk towards the railway station in Lviv, Ukraine.—AFP
A man plays piano as people walk towards the railway station in Lviv, Ukraine.—AFP

MOSCOW: Around 2,500 people were detained on Sunday at protests against Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine, Russian police said, 11 days after the attack began.

Also, in an apparent attempt to control media coverage of the war in neighbouring Ukraine, the authorities blocked one of the last remaining independent news organisations in Russia.

A police spokeswoman said 1,700 people were detained in Moscow after around 2,500 took part in an “unsanctioned protest”, while 750 were detained at a smaller rally of around 1,500 people in the second largest city of Saint Petersburg, Russian news agencies reported. OVD-Info, which monitors detentions at opposition protests, put the figure of detainees in 49 towns and cities across Russia at 2,575 people. It said police had used electric shockers on protesters.

It also posted witness photos and videos on Telegram messenger service showing riot police beating protesters with batons and demonstrators with blood running down their faces. Memorial, Russia’s most prominent rights group, said that one of its leading activists, Oleg Orlov, was detained on the capital’s Manezhnaya square as he held a placard.

Svetlana Gannushkina, another veteran rights campaigner who has been tipped as a potential Nobel Prize winner, was detained in Moscow on the day of her 80th birthday. A police van carrying a group of detainees to a police station overturned in a road traffic accident, injuring nine, six of them members of the public, city police said.

In the second largest city of Saint Petersburg, with large numbers of riot police patrolled outside Gostiny Dvor, a building in the city centre where protesters usually gather.

These protests came after hundreds were detained at demonstrations further east, such as in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk and in Yekaterinburg in the Urals. Russian police on Friday had warned that all attempts to hold illegal demonstrations on Sunday would be “immediately suppressed” and organisers and participants would face charges.

News organisation

Mediazona confirmed on Sunday it had been blocked by authorities for its reporting on Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Roskomnadzor began blocking Media­zona,” the outlet said in a statement, referring to Russia’s communications regulator.

“Because we cover honestly what is happening in Ukraine and call the invasion an invasion, and the war a war,” it said.

The statement added that Russia has in recent days introduced “military censorship and there are almost no independent media left in the country”.

Earlier this week Ekho Moskvy radio station and the Dozhd TV channel — two of Russia’s landmark liberal media outlets — were either dissolved or suspended operations.

Dozens of media workers and independent outlets — including Dozhd — have already been designated “foreign agents” by authorities, and many reporters and editors have been forced to quit the country.

Mediazona is an independent online publication which writes about court cases and abuses of prisoners’ rights, among other subjects.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2022

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