Images and videos show police cracking down on demonstrators in multiple cities, with footage showing several protesters at a demonstration in central Moscow being carried away by the police and authorities in St. Petersburg attempting to contain a crowd chanting “no mobilization” outside Isakiivskiy Cathedral.
Police detained the protesters across 38 cities in Russia on Wednesday, according to figures released shortly after midnight by independent monitoring group OVD-Info. The group’s spokeswoman Maria Kuznetsova said in a phone call with CNN that at at least four police stations in Moscow some of the protesters arrested by riot police were being drafted directly into Russia’s military.
One of the detainees has been threatened with prosecution for refusing to be drafted, she said. The government has said that punishment for refusing the draft is now 15 years in jail. Of the more than 1,300 people detained nationwide, more than 500 were in Moscow and over 520 in St. Petersburg, according to OVD-Info.
The decree itself does not apply solely to reservists. It allows the “call up [of] citizens of the Russian Federation for military service by mobilization into the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.”
Putin raised the specter of nuclear weapons during his address, saying he would use “all the means at our disposal,” if he deemed the “territorial integrity” of Russia to be jeopardized. He also endorsed referendums on joining Russia that Russian-appointed leaders in four occupied regions of Ukraine announced they would hold this week.
Footage from social media showed several protesters in Ulan Ude in eastern Siberia carrying signs reading “No to war! No to mobilization!” and “Our husbands, fathers, and brothers do not want to kill other husbands and fathers!”
“We want our fathers, husbands, and brothers to remain alive … and not to leave their children as orphans. Stop the war and don’t take our people!” one protester said.
Video from Yekaterinburg in western Russia showed police scuffling with several protesters. CNN could not independently verify the footage from either city.
Another video posted by a journalist from the Moscow internet publication The Village shows dozens of people in Arbatskaya street chanting “Let him go” as one man is carried away.
The Moscow prosecutor’s office on Wednesday also warned citizens against joining protests or distributing information calling for participation — reminding people that they could face up to 15 years in jail.
In a rare joint statement, British Prime Minister Liz Truss and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, said Wednesday that both agree Putin’s announcement of a partial mobilization of Russian citizens is a sign of “weakness.”
Ukraine remained defiant in the face of the announcement, with President Volodymyr Zelensky telling the UNGA in a pre-recorded address Wednesday that Russia was “afraid of real (peace) negotiations,” and pointed to what he characterized as Russian “lies.”
Russia “talks about the talks but announces a military mobilization,” Zelensky said. “Russia wants war.”
Katya Krebs, Uliana Pavlova, Gianluca Mezzofiore and Anastasia Graham-Yooll, Sugam Pokharel, Clare Sebastian, Idris Muktar and Stephanie Halasz contributed to this report.