Anti-war protests break out in Russian streets amid social media restrictions

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Feb. 26 (UPI) — Several Russian citizens have taken to the streets in protest against the Russia-Ukraine war and been arrested as their country’s communication regulator restricts social media access.

By midnight Friday, more than 500 people were arrested in a second night of antiwar protests across more than two dozen cities in Russia, with almost 200 arrests in St. Petersburg and more than 200 in Moscow, CNN reported. On Thursday, police arrested more than 1,800 people, with more than 1,000 arrests in Moscow alone after Russia launched the invasion of Ukraine, which declared its independence from the Soviet Union more than 30 years ago.

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Meanwhile, prominent Russians have voiced their support for the protestors.

A popular talk show host on state-run Channel One, Ivan Urgant, posted a black square on Instagram with the caption “Fear and pain. No to war,” and he has not gone on air since.

Though Channel One claimed it was just a scheduling issue, several reports in Russian media said he was blacklisted.

On Friday, daughter of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Elizaveta Peskova, posted a “stop the war” message on a Telegram verified account with more than 180,000 followers, which has since been taken down, according to CNN.

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Meanwhile, Russia’s communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, has cracked down on social media access.

Roskomnadzor partially blocked access to Facebook on Friday after claiming the social network restricted four Russian media outlets, The Verge reported.

The regulator has accused Facebook of violating “the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens,” but Nick Clegg, president of global affairs for Meta, the parent organization of Facebook, said in a statement posted to Twitter the issue was its refusal to stop fact-checking and labeling content from state-owned organizations.

Clegg added in another Twitter post that Meta is also now banning Russian state media from running advertisements on its platform in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

By Saturday, Russia’s communication regulator had restricted Twitter, according to a report from the internet monitoring group NetBlocks.

Connections across every major Russian telecom provider were failed or throttled, the report said, adding that it was possible to circumvent the “online censorship” through VPN service.