Five children and an elderly woman are among the Russians who have been arrested for protesting against the war in Ukraine.
Seven-year-olds Sonya and David, nine-year-old Matvey, and 11-year-olds Liza and Gosha were detained along with their mothers after laying flowers and holding anti-war posters outside the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow.
Ekaterina Zavizion wrote in a Facebook post that she and her friend Olya had been inspired to go to the embassy with flowers after watching a video about the bombing of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.
Anguish of child detained in Moscow
She said she had “realised that I can no longer ‘sit and tremble under the bushes’ and pretend that nothing is happening”.
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Ms Zavizion said she had also been moved by a message from a friend in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv – a “peaceful, kind, dear woman to me” – who was fearing for her life.
She said there had been nobody home to watch her children and that, knowing she was likely to be arrested, she had decided to take the children to the embassy with her, rather than leave them at home alone.
“I guess it would be better for my family’s safety to keep quiet and not go anywhere – but I just couldn’t anymore,” she said.
“Our intentions were the most peaceful – to lay flowers in memory of dead civilians and children in Ukraine, and shoot a little video with homemade children’s posters – no to war – for my (friend in Ukraine), for the whole Ukrainian people – to support, to say that we care, that we also die here from grief and pain.”
The children had been laying flowers at the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow. Pic: Alexandra Arkhipova
The children and their mothers were detained for about four hours. Pic: Alexandra Arkhipova
She said the group had laid the roses and tulips but the employees “raked them with their feet” before telling them not to gather at the site and to leave immediately.
Ms Zavizion was arrested and the children cried, leaving her pleading with police to be allowed to calm them down.
Instead, she was locked in a police van and taken to a police station with her children, her friend, and her friend’s children.
“I constantly reassured the kids, saying we are safe together, although I didn’t believe in it anymore.”
The group spent four hours at the police station, she said, where they were “treated more or less normally”.
“I was very scared when they asked me about ‘reasons for harming children’s life and health’ – I was really scared that I could be threatened with deprivation of parental rights and, in a panic, I began to write to my friends. But no one has threatened me with this directly.”
She added: “Such a personal hell happened in my life and the lives of my children. Well, the permanent hell around is becoming so familiar.”
Yelena Osipova, 77, detained by police
Police in Russia also targeted elderly protesters, including a 77-year-old woman, Yelena Osipova, who had been attending a protest in St Petersburg.
Those standing near Ms Osipova had been applauding her when two officers approached, spoke to her and appeared to try to take her posters, one of which said: “Soldier, drop your weapon and you will be a true hero.”
Eventually they took her by the arm and guided her away but a group of five or six more officers followed, trying to keep other protesters away as the tiny elderly woman was dragged off.
According to independent Russian human rights group Ovd-Info, more than 7,600 people have been detained at anti-war demonstrations in the country since 24 February – the day Russia invaded Ukraine.