More than 1,000 arrested during Russian protests against military mobilisation

Rights group OVD-Info said demonstrations took place in 37 Russian cities

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More than 1,000 people were arrested in 37 cities across Russia during protests against President Vladimir Putin's Wednesday order for the partial mobilisation of reservists to the war in Ukraine, an independent rights group said.

Despite criticism of the military being illegal, protests broke out across the country and hundreds were arrested, independent Russian human rights group OVD-Info reported.

Mr Putin ordered Russia's first wartime mobilisation since the Second World War, with Defence Secretary Sergey Shoigu saying the call-up would activate about 300,000 people from a pool of 25 million.

The announcement sparked flights out of Russia quickly selling out. Jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny called for mass demonstrations against the mobilisation.

But Finnish border guards denied queues at the border between the two nations.

"Situation at Finland's borders has not changed with the announcement of Russian mobilisation," it posted on Twitter.

"There are videos circulating on social media, at least some of which have already been filmed before and now taken out of context. There is incorrect information in circulation."

Russians said some people were already receiving call-up notices and police were barring men from leaving one city in the south.

An Associated Press crew in Moscow witnessed at least a dozen arrests in the first 15 minutes of a protest in the capital.

“Thousands of Russian men — our fathers, brothers and husbands — will be thrown into the meat grinder of the war,” the Vesna opposition movement said, calling for protests.

“What will they be dying for? What will mothers and children be crying for?”

Video footage posted online purportedly showed hundreds of Russians in large coats chanting and marching in St Petersberg and Moscow.

Mr Putin’s decree authorising the partial mobilisation, which took effect immediately, offered few details, raising suspicions that the draft could be broadened at any moment. Notably, one clause was kept secret.

As protest calls circulated online, the Moscow prosecutor’s office said that organising or participating in such actions could result in up to 15 years in prison. Authorities issued similar warnings before other recent protests. Wednesday’s were the first nationwide anti-war protests since the war began in late February.

The state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor also warned media that access to their websites would be blocked if they were found to be transmitting “false information” about the mobilisation, though it was unclear exactly what that meant.

Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this account

Updated: September 22, 2022, 7:06 AM