Russian activist warns of ‘unbearable’ consequences for protesters: ‘You don’t know what will happen to you’

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A Russian activist joined “America’s Newsroom” Tuesday to discuss the “torturous” reality for citizens arrested in Moscow as Vladimir Putin continues his crackdown on anti-war protesters. 

“They’re taking you to their police department, and you don’t know what will happen to you,” Arshak Makichyan told co-host Bill Hemmer.  

More than 13,000 protesters have been detained in 147 cities since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, according to human rights organization, OVD-Info. The group purports that over 4,500 protesters were arrested on Sunday alone.  

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Until recently, Russian police have avoided threatening or getting physical with protesters in Moscow because of international photographers and human rights defenders in the area. However, this past Sunday police attitudes shifted, according to Makichyan. 

“They can arrest you for 10 days, for 30 days, it’s unpredictable. If you are [protesting] not for the first time then most likely you will be arrested. And if there is a third time you are arrested at the protest then you can get a criminal case,” explained the Russian activist.

Makichyan also noted that “people are afraid” of the “terrible censorship” in Russia, most notably regarding the strict guidelines on speech relating to the Ukraine war. 

A Russian police officer, right, detains a demonstrator during an action against Russia's attack on Ukraine in St. Petersburg, Russia, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. 

A Russian police officer, right, detains a demonstrator during an action against Russia’s attack on Ukraine in St. Petersburg, Russia, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. 
((AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky))

“They are threatening to arrest people for decades just for speaking up against this war—just for calling this war a war. They are calling it a “special operation,”’ added Makichyan. 

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The Russian protester went on to say it was “difficult” and “dangerous” to be an activist before the war, but now the situation has become “unbearable.”

“You do not have guns to defend yourself. You don’t have anything. And you are just a person, and they have a million of police, they have nuclear power, they have a lot of money, and you don’t have anything,” Makichyan said.

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Despite the threats of imprisonment, Makichyan asserted that Russia needs to continue organizing large protests because of the violations of human rights being inflicted on both Russian and Ukrainian citizens. He aptly calls the Ukrainian conflict “Putin’s War.”

“We don’t have this right to be silent now” Makichyan concluded.  

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