Europe

British man watches as wife shouts ‘stop Putin, stop the war’ at Moscow protest

A British man watched anxiously on Skype as his wife protested on the streets of Moscow for the first time after Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilisation for the war in Ukraine.

The woman, who has no history of being politically active, vented her anger after security personnel in plain clothes apparently turned up at her workplace to take away adult males.

She used her mobile to film a demonstration as she joined one of the shows of dissent on the streets of the capital, with her husband watching over the online link from the Home Counties.

Her videos show the chanting, police and broad section of opposition to Mr Putin as people joined the noisy demonstrations, which resulted in more than 1,300 reported arrests across Russia.

The Muscovite has been seeking to join her husband in Britain but the couple has encountered bureaucratic obstacles, which resulted in her having to return home after being threatened with deportation during a wait for a heavily-delayed spousal visa.

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In the meantime, she and her adult son face dwindling wages and having their savings raided by the state to support the faltering war effort in Ukraine, the husband said.

The 54-year-old, who does not want to be named, told Metro.co.uk that security forces prompted ‘outrage’ yesterday as they followed up the president’s announcement of partial mobilisation by arriving at workplaces to take away military-age males.

The mobilisation applies to reservists, not conscripts, but critics say the wording is vague and it is unclear how it is playing out on the ground.  

‘They had military in plain clothes waiting outside people’s workplaces and if men of the right age and category turned up they were just taken, put in vans and scooted off,’ the man said. ‘It caused outrage and people left work to go on multiple marches around Moscow.

‘Hundreds of thousands of people are going out on the streets and they are fighting against the police and rebelling knowing full well the consequences, they could be fined or put in prison and abused in the meantime.

‘I told my wife not to go, but she wanted to make her voice heard, she was shouting, “stop Putin, stop the war”.

‘People are really upset and there is a lot of discontent within the population, people are scared, but they are fighting back.

‘The only thing they can do is protest and while the military has the equipment, they have the numbers.

‘My wife is one of those who just can’t stand by any longer.

The protests broke out after Mr Putin announced the mobilisation involving 300,000 reservist troops.

Since the invasion began on February 24, Russia has introduced even harsher penalties for those showing opposition to the war. Anyone ruled to have spread ‘fake’ information can be imprisoned for up to 15 years.

The UK Ministry of Defence said the mobilisation ‘is effectively an admission that Russia has exhausted its supply of willing volunteers to fight in Ukraine’.

In Moscow, Mr Putin threatened to use nuclear weapons against the West, who he said was trying to ‘blackmail us’ with weapons of mass destruction.

The president ratcheted up the threat level as Ukrainian forces were reportedly consolidating the territorial gains they have made across the north-east over the past two weeks.

‘There is a lot of unrest,’ the husband said. ‘People have gone beyond keeping quiet and are speaking out.

‘They are also slipping out across the borders, some are hiding in the countryside to avoid being called up by Putin. Some people are also genuinely worried that he will use nuclear weapons.’

His wife managed to return home safely, but like many of her compatriots is now desperately seeking a way out of the country as the strength of feeling against the war reaches new levels.

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