Vitaliy Belousov/Sputnik

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

Hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine, antiwar protests broke out across Russia. 

In the center of Moscow, “dozens” of protesters were arrested, one Russian newspaper reported. Andrew Roth, a journalist for the Guardian, saw one protester, who had held up a sign reading “Fuck war,” being immediately detained: 

In St. Petersburg, Putin’s hometown, a reporter from the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, a rare independent voice within the Russian press, said nearly 200 protesters were chanting “No to war!” as police shouted them down with a microphone and began detaining people. 

The invasion had been heavily foreshadowed in recent days as the United States and other Western countries cited intelligence that said Putin was planning to invade. But to Russian citizens, the sudden, violent escalation was shocking. Even those supportive of Putin’s two-decade rule were struggling to piece together how this had happened.

As Anton Troianovski, a New York Times reporter in Moscow, put it on Thursday:

On the country’s internet, still mostly uncensored, Russians saw their vaunted military sow carnage in a country in which millions of them had relatives and friends.

Many of them had bought into the Kremlin’s narrative that theirs was a peace-loving country, and Mr. Putin a careful and calculating leader. After all, many Russians still believe, it was Mr. Putin who lifted their country out of the poverty and chaos of the 1990s and made it into a place with a decent standard of living and worthy of international respect.

Nowhere was that cognitive dissonance more clear than in the reaction of Russian elites and celebrities, who broke protocol in their sharp condemnation of the invasion. Max Seddon, the Financial Times’ bureau chief in Moscow, cited several examples: 

The Moscow director of a theater and cultural center had an even blunter reaction. After submitting her resignation on Thursday, Elena Kovalskaya posted to Facebook, “It’s impossible to work for a murderer and collect a salary from him.”

In a speech on Thursday, Putin falsely characterized the Russian military’s actions as a defensive “special military operation” and urged the Russian people to “maintain social cohesion” in the days ahead.

In Moscow and St. Petersburg, and in the few news outlets courageous enough to defy Putin’s censorship regime, the Russian people made clear how they feel about those words.

“The invasion of Ukraine was started on behalf of Russian citizens but against our will,” declared an editorial in Meduza, an independent outlet in Latvia that reports on Russia. “The shame that comes with it will be with us forever.”

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate