How Russians opposed to the war in Ukraine are making their feelings known

ITV News Correspondent Carl Dinnen meets the Russians making their feelings known towards the war in Ukraine

It’s not easy for Russians to oppose their country’s invasion of Ukraine.

For one thing they can’t call it an invasion or even a war - that’s been made illegal. Protests are clamped down on very rapidly. Anyone holding an anti-war placard is swiftly detained.

Near the Kremlin a woman holding a sign saying "two words’" was detained, as was another holding a blank piece of paper. A pro-Putin woman berating protesters was also dragged away, the police detain first and ask question later.

But still there are those who want to make their feelings known. In a basement under a Moscow apartment block we meet Denis, Maria and Roman, three students who make a political podcast together.

In a basement under a Moscow apartment block we meet Denis, Maria and Roman. Credit: ITV News

Our first meeting had to be postponed because Maria was detained. The police question her for five hours then let her go.

She thinks they don’t like something she shared on Instagram, but she isn’t sure why she was picked up and not anyone else who shared it. Denis believes that by keeping the process random the authorities are able to spread fear more effectively.

Others have taken more sensational online action.

Egor Poliakov was a business journalist for the pro-Kremlin website. Already forbidden from writing anything that reflected badly on the Russian economy, after the invasion, he struggled with his conscience. Finally he came up with a plan.

Egor and a colleague prepared a number of anti-war and anti-Putin articles and then on Victory Day - May 9 - they flooded the Lenta website with their articles.

Egor prepared a number of anti-war and anti-Putin articles and put them on the website on Victory Day. Credit: ITV News

Egor is now in hiding in an undisclosed location outside Russia. But he says he can look at himself in the mirror again.

Not every dissident is campaigning online or from outside Russia.

Oleg Orlov works for Russia’s oldest human rights organisation, Memorial. Originally established to record the abuses of the Soviet era, Memorial also now focuses on contemporary human rights violations.

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The authorities are in the process of closing them down for not declaring foreign funding. 

Oleg says they can’t even close properly because their computers were taken in a police raid and they are unable to close their accounts. During the raid, ostensibly over an unrelated criminal investigation, someone scrawled the letters Z and V on an office door.

Everyone in Russia knows they are the symbols of the invasion force.

Oleg has been detained five times since February alone. He won’t tell us what he plans to do next, but he compares the crackdown to the Stalinist era, saying that once again Russia has become a totalitarian state.