UN Calls for Release of Russian Draft Protesters

The UN human rights office calls for the release of the Russians arrested for protesting against President Vladimir Putin’s plan to increase Russia’s fighting capacity in Ukraine.

Nearly 2,400 protesters were reportedly arrested in various locations in Russia following President Vladimir Putin’s statement on Wednesday of a partial mobilization of troops to join the invasion of Ukraine.

His call for 300,000 reservists to support the battle-weary Russian army in Ukraine sparked mass anti-war protests. UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said clashes broke out between protesters and police in some cases, but most of the demonstrations were peaceful.

“Although most of the protests were peaceful, military and administrative buildings, including recruiting offices, were attacked in several areas,” Shamdasani said. “We emphasize that the arrest of people solely for exercising their rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

He says it’s unclear how many people remain in detention.

Fear of being called up for military service has prompted thousands of people to flee to other countries in hopes of avoiding conscription. Shamdasani says it is heartbreaking to see so many people resorting to such desperate measures in the context of what she calls an unnecessary war.

“What international human rights law insists on is that when people wish to oppose participation in hostilities or when they wish to declare a conscientious objection, this must be taken into consideration, this must be respected by the authorities.”

He says that information must be given to people who are reluctant to go to war, so that they know how to raise a conscientious objection to participation.

Shamdasani notes that Russian authorities have acknowledged that in some cases people have been asked to mobilize by mistake. He says he believes a hotline has been established to handle these cases.

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