More than 1,000 protesters in Russia were arrested at rallies held against the country’s military intervention in Ukraine, a non-governmental organization said on Thursday.
According to OVD-Info, the protesters were arrested in 51 Russian cities, including the capital Moscow and the second-largest city of Saint-Petersburg.
Almost 700 people were arrested in Moscow and about 400 in Saint-Petersburg, OVD-Info said.
The arrests came as thousands of Russians in many big cities took to the streets on Thursday to protest their country’s military intervention in Ukraine.
The February 2014 “Maidan revolution” in Ukraine led to former President Viktor Yanukovych fleeing the country and a pro-Western government coming to power.
That was followed by Russia illegally annexing the Crimea region and separatists declaring independence in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Donbas in eastern Ukraine, both of which have large ethnic Russian populations.
As clashes erupted between Russian-backed separatist forces and the Ukrainian army, the 2014 and 2015 Minsk agreements were signed in Moscow after the intervention of Western powers.
The conflict, however, simmered for years with persistent cease-fire violations.
As of February 2022, some 14,000 people have been killed in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Tensions started escalating late last year when Ukraine, the US and its allies accused Russia of amassing tens of thousands of troops on the border with Ukraine.
They claimed Russia was preparing to invade its western neighbor, allegations that were consistently rejected by Moscow.
Defying threats of sanctions by the West, Moscow officially recognized Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states earlier this week, followed by the start of a military operation in Ukraine on Thursday.