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Journalists arrested in Moscow at soldiers’ wives protest

At least 20 journalists have been arrested by police while covering a protest in Moscow by wives of Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine.

The group, campaigning under the slogan ‘Way Home’, organised today’s event to mark 500 days since the Kremlin’s mass mobilisation of 300,000 conscripts in September 2022.

Dozens of women laid red carnations at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow’s Red Square, a silent protest which they have organised each Saturday since the start of the year.

Footage filmed at the protest shows about 100 people taking part in the demonstration.

All the journalists arrested by police are understood to be male, and include a journalist from Agence France Presse.

They were arrested after the women had placed flowers at the site and are currently detained at a nearby police station.

Members of the ‘Way Home’ group are opposed to the current system of mobilisation which does not place a time limit on the duration of a conscript’s service.

Many of the group’s members have husbands who have been fighting in Russia’s war in Ukraine since their call-up in September 2022.

“Russians have relatives in Ukraine, close and distant. That’s why this situation has struck us to the bottom of our hearts,” Maria Andreeva, one of the group’s main organisers, told reporters.

“After World War II, everyone was proud because of what our grandfathers died for. ‘Never again’ was the slogan. Now the slogan is ‘We can do it again’. Really? No. No,” said Ms Andreeva whose husband was mobilised in September 2022 and is stationed in Ukraine.

The Kremlin is yet to comment about the group’s protests or engage with the women.

State television has also not covered the protests.

The arrests of journalists covering the event is the first intervention by police after weeks of silent protests by the group at Red Square.

“They do not arrest us only due to a simple reason that, according to their own words, our men are performing their duty,” said another protestor who gave her name as Antonina from Yaroslavl, a city 250km north of Moscow.

“We do not want coffins delivered to our homes. We do not want children to grow up without their fathers. We do not want our sons to die there,” said Antonina, who said her husband was currently in Ukraine.

Nina, another protestor, said that the group will be trying to attract attention to their campaign in different regions.

“The entire Far East was deported. We don’t have many people there. They’re deporting loads by buses,” she said, referring to the high proportion of conscripts drafted from Russia’s eastern regions.

“And now they are coming back crippled,” said Nina.

Some members of the ‘Way Home’ group later walked to the election headquarters of Russian President Vladimir who is running for a fifth term as president on 17 March.

Telegram channel Ostorozhno Novosti reported that another journalist was arrested outside Mr Putin’s election headquarters.

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