The Observers

Anti-war protester arrested in Russia for holding up a poster saying 'two words'

A woman in Moscow was arrested for protesting against the war in Ukraine, holding up a piece of paper that said just "two words" in Russian.
A woman in Moscow was arrested for protesting against the war in Ukraine, holding up a piece of paper that said just "two words" in Russian. © Observers

A video showing police arresting a woman during a Moscow protest against the war in Ukraine on March 13 went viral earlier this month. The woman was holding a sign that said, in Russian, “two words” – a reference to an anti-war slogan. Cleverly, her sign doesn’t feature the “war”, as a new law bans the spread of what the government considers false information about the invasion they call a “special operation". 

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A woman attended a protest on March 13 in Moscow against the war in Ukraine, carrying a sign reading “two words” in Russian, a reference to the popular anti-war slogan in Russian “niet voyne", which roughly translates as “no to the war”. The woman was arrested by at least seven officers who were wearing riot gear.

Activatica, the Russian independent media outlet that filmed the arrest, sent our team a second video, showing another woman being arrested after reciting a pacifist poem, proof that police are cracking down even on indirect speech.

The cameraman who caught the arrest on camera while filming for Activatica, which is opposed to the war, sent us a longer version of the video. In it, he interviews the woman shortly before her arrest. She hesitates to express herself on camera. 

170 euro fine instead of 15 years in prison 

During their hearing on March 21, the two women were convicted of “violating the established order by participating in a public event” and “disobeying the police”. Each woman was fined the equivalent of 170 euros.

However, if the women had used the word war, they might have been given much harsher sentences. Since the law signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 4, people convicted of spreading “false information” about the Russian army, could receive a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. 

In an effort to circumnavigate this censorship, many anti-war activists have started to hold up blank signs or signs marked with coded messages

The independent Russian NGO OVD-Info says more than 15,000 protesters have been arrested in Russia since the start of the war.

>> Read more on The Observers: How Russian YouTubers are trying to get around censorship