Over 1,800 Arrested After Anti-War Protests Erupt in Russia Amid Invasion of Ukraine: 'No to War'

"I want to ask for forgiveness from Ukrainians. We did not vote for those who started the war," said Tatyana Usmanova, an opposition activist in Moscow

Anti-war protest in St Petersburg
Photo: Peter KovalevTASS via Getty Images

Thousands have swarmed the streets in cities across Russia in anti-war protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin's incursion into Ukraine.

Locals first came together on Thursday with demonstrations as an emotional plea to halt their country's "full-scale attack" on Ukraine, where the death toll continues to rise. However, protesters were met with heavy police presence and arrests.

Hours after the first missiles struck in Ukraine, the Investigative Committee of Russia released a statement Thursday warning citizens not to participate in "mass riots and rallies associated with the tense foreign policy situation," as it's "criminal" and will result in "serious legal consequences.

Regardless, protests erupted. A local Russian news outlet shared videos as hundreds gathered with signs and chanted, "No to war!" Police used megaphones in an attempt to disperse crowds as local authorities were seen detaining protesters.

As of Friday, 1,844 people were detained across 60 Russian cities, with over 1,000 people detained in Moscow alone, according to OVD Info, a civil rights group that monitors rallies and arrests in Russia.

Many Russians have also condemned their president's actions and requested a halt on the invasion through petitions shared online. One petition, created by prominent human rights advocate Lev Ponomavyov, had already amassed more than 330,000 signatures as of Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

Tatyana Usmanova, an opposition activist in Moscow, wrote on Facebook that her country's invasion is a "shame that will forever be with us."

"I want to ask for forgiveness from Ukrainians. We did not vote for those who started the war," she added.

Russia began an invasion of Ukraine earlier this week, according to the Ukraine government, with forces moving in from the north, east and south. The attack is still evolving but explosions and airstrikes have been reported, with threats mounting against the capital, Kyiv, a city of 2.8 million people.

Numerous residents have been seen trying to flee. "We are facing a war and horror. What could be worse?" one 64-year-old woman living in Kyiv told the Associated Press.

President Putin's aggression toward Ukraine has been widely condemned by the international community, including with economic sanctions and NATO troops massing in the region. Putin insists Ukraine has historic ties to Russia and he is acting in the interest of so-called "peacekeeping."

"The prayers of the entire world are with the people of Ukraine tonight as they suffer an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces," American President Joe Biden said as the invasion appeared to begin in force this week.

The Russian attack on Ukraine is an evolving story, with information changing quickly. Follow PEOPLE's complete coverage of the war here, including stories from citizens on the ground and ways to help.

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