More than 1,300 people were detained across Russia as demonstrators protested President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of a partial mobilization of military reservists, an independent monitoring group said Wednesday.
More than 1,000 protesters were taken into custody in the country’s two most populous cities — Moscow and St. Petersburg — said the group, OVD-Info. It said people in 38 cities overall had been detained.
Anti-protest laws in Russia bar unsanctioned demonstrations. The Moscow prosecutor’s office warned that participating in one could lead to a 15-year prison sentence, The Associated Press reported.
In a statement cited by Russian news agencies, an Interior Ministry official said that in a “number of regions there were attempts to stage unauthorized actions which brought together an extremely small number of participants.”
Video of a protest outside a St. Petersburg church showed officers in helmets and tactical gear striking protesters with batons. In another video outside the church, authorities could be seen leading people away from the group one by one.
In Moscow, a video showed security forces holding someone on the ground as a crowd chanted, “Let the person go.”
“I’m not afraid of anything,” a protester in Moscow who declined to identify herself told the AP. “The most valuable thing that they can take from us is the life of our children. I won’t give them the life of my child.”
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said 300,000 reservists with relevant combat and service experience would be called up initially.
Tim Stelloh is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.