Russian police arrested 2,114 people at anti-war protests in 48 cities across the country on Sunday, the fourth consecutive day that demonstrators have risked their personal safety to hit the streets in opposition to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
That’s according to OVD-Info, a Russian human rights group that has long documented crackdowns on civil liberties in the country. A total of 5,500 anti-war protesters have now been detained since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale military assault on Ukraine, said the independent monitor.
As Al Jazeera reported:
Many held posters that read “No to war,” “Russians go home,” and “Peace to Ukraine.”
“It is a shame that there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of us and not millions,” said 35-year-old engineer Vladimir Vilokhonov, who took part in the protest.
Another protester, Alyona Stepanova, 25, came to the protest with a packed bag in case “we get taken away.”
“We believe it is our duty to come here,” she said.
More than 350 civilians, including 14 children, have been killed in Ukraine since the start of Putin’s attack, according to the country’s health ministry. In addition, it said that 1,684 people, including 116 children, have been wounded. According to the World Health Organization, Ukraine’s hospitals are quickly running out of oxygen supplies.
United Nations officials have said that more than 368,000 people have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries, and they estimate the war could produce four million refugees. European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic, meanwhile, has said that the number of people displaced from Ukraine could reach seven million.
While Kyiv has agreed to attend talks with Moscow at the Ukraine-Belarus border—negotiations are reportedly set to begin Monday morning—Russia’s former deputy foreign minister Andrei Fedorov told Al Jazeera on Sunday that Putin is seeking a complete victory by Wednesday.
“Everything will depend frankly speaking on the coming two days because, according to my knowledge, Putin orders for complete military operation with a victory by March 2,” said Fedorov, who added that the Kremlin has been surprised by the strength of Ukrainian resistance and by European governments’ unified decision to impose far-reaching sanctions despite their reliance on Russian gas.
Western sanctions have “caused a lot of problems over here now,” said Federov. Some commentators argued Sunday that an economic collapse in Russia could make Putin more likely to escalate his threat to use nuclear weapons.
In a rare move, the U.N. Security Council voted for the 193-member General Assembly to hold an emergency session Monday on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
As the BBC explained, “the resolution, called ‘Uniting for Peace,’ allows members of the Security Council to call a special session with the General Assembly if the five permanent members (Russia, U.S., U.K., France, and China) cannot agree how to act together to maintain peace.”
Sunday’s vote to authorize an emergency meeting was supported by 11 of the Security Council’s 15 members. Russia opposed the measure while China, India, and the United Arab Emirates abstained. Even though Russia, China, and other permanent members can typically exercise veto power, is was a procedural vote and therefore only required nine votes in favor.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said that an emergency session had been called for the first time in decades because “this is no ordinary moment.”
“We need to take extraordinary action to meet this threat to our international system,” said Thomas-Greenfield. “So let us do everything we can to help the people of Ukraine.”
The Security Council is holding another meeting on Monday at 3:00 p.m. ET to discuss Ukraine’s humanitarian crisis. On Tuesday, France and Mexico are expected to submit a Security Council resolution that calls for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, the protection of civilians, and a guarantee that aid can be delivered.
Russia, which on Friday blocked a Security Council resolution condemning Moscow’s “premeditated aggression” in Ukraine, is expected to prevent the passage of France and Mexico’s planned resolution.