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Prayers for Peace are Forbidden: a Digest of Russian Protests

15.02.2023    available: Українською
Memorial volunteers
The priest Ioann Koval replaced the word “victory” with the word “peace” in a special prayer about “Holy Russia”. Soon he was forbidden from leading any services.

100-метрове зображення антивоєнного символу – Голубки Пабло Пікассо – на Онезькому озері. Голубку створив разом з іншими активістами фотограф Ігор Підгорний. Фото: ФАС Dove of peace, Karelia

Dove of peace, Karelia

Protests by artists, priests and lawyers

On Tuesday, 31 January 2023, an exhibition by Yelena Osipova (see 2022 Digests: June; 3-9 July; and 27 July-5 August) opened in the St Petersburg office of the Yabloko Party.  As before the 77-year-old artist, a survivor of the Leningrad Blockade, was displaying her anti-war placards. Since last year she has continued her solitary protests despite harassment by the authorities. The exhibition was due to run until 24 February but on Wednesday 1 February it was shut down because of reports that mines had been placed in the building. The police came and confiscated all Osipova’s works on display. 

Олена Осипова, фото: Новая Газета Yelena Osipova © Novaya Gazeta

Yelena Osipova © Novaya Gazeta

The artist has been drawing political posters for the past twenty years. She displays each one in the centre of St Petersburg and has been regularly arrested by the police who confiscate each new work.


Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, has forbidden the priest Ioann Koval to conduct any services. In a special prayer about “Holy Russia”, Koval replaced the word “victory” with the word “peace”. On Thursday 2 February an edict was published on the website of the Moscow diocese forbidding the incumbent of St Andrew’s Church in Lyublino (Moscow Region) to lead any services there. He was forbidden to practise as a priest, it is thought, after being secretly denounced by some of his parishioners.

Священник Іоанн Коваль, фото: телеграм-канал Християни проти війни Ioann Koval, the priest in St Andrew’s Church in Lyublino (Moscow Region)

Ioann Koval, the priest in St Andrew’s Church in Lyublino (Moscow Region)


The defence attorney Maria Eismont petitioned a court to summon the Minister of Foreign Affairs, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, and Russia’s representative at the UN to testify at the trial of her client Dmitry Ivanov. A student at Moscow State University, Ivanov is being prosecuted under Article 207.3 (RF Criminal Code) with circulating “fake news” about Russia’s armed forces.

Eismont wishes to ask Sergei Lavrov, Igor Konashenkov and Vasily Nebenzya to explain on what the authorities base their attitude and behaviour towards Ukraine. Their testimony is crucial, believes Eismont, because Ivanov faces years of imprisonment for disagreeing with the official version of events in Ukraine. The judge upheld the defence petition and has subpoenaed the three men to appear in court.

Solitary protestors

In Krasnodar (South Russia), the police arrested Natalya Bushuyeva after she protested against the war with a placard reading “Peace”. Bushuyeva was taken to a police station and charged under Article 20.3.3 (Administrative Offences) with ‘discrediting’ the Russian army.

Наталія Бушуєва, фото: Активація “Peace” (Photo, Activatica)

“Peace” (Photo, Activatica)


In the city of Voronezh (pop. 1 million; Central Russia) the police arrested Andrei Pustovalov for standing outside the regional administration building with a placard that said: “Everything is going according to plan. We shall go to Heaven.” (A reference to Putin’s 2018 declaration that if there was a nuclear war, “We shall go to Heaven as martyrs; they will die like flies.”)

Вікторія Кочкасова, фото: ОВД-інфо “No to all the fuss and bother” (Photo, OVD-Info)

“No to all the fuss and bother” (Photo, OVD-Info)


Activist Victoria Kochkasova also protested in Voronezh next to the city’s puppet theatre. Her placard read, “No to all this fuss and bother” (replacing the word voyna ‘war’ with voznya).

Андрій Пустовалов, фото: ОВД-інфо “We shall go to Heaven as martyrs, while they will die like flies” (Photo, OVD-Info)

“We shall go to Heaven as martyrs, while they will die like flies” (Photo, OVD-Info)

Torching of automobiles

Vehicles bearing the pro-war Z symbol were set alight on the Altufyevskoe Highway in northeast Moscow, and in the town of Shcholkovo (Moscow Region). 

Спалена автівка у Щолковому Московської області Torched vehicle in Shcholkovo

Torched vehicle in Shcholkovo

Спалена автівка на Алтуф’євському шосе Torched vehicle on the Altufyevskoe Highway in northeast Moscow

Torched vehicle on the Altufyevskoe Highway in northeast Moscow

Damage to railway lines

On Thursday 2 February an unidentified individual attempted to sabotage a railway line near Moscow, but was spotted by the driver of a suburban train. The police are now looking for the offender. According to law-enforcement agencies the man was trying to open a relay case next to the railroad lines around Stolbovaya rail station (Moscow Region). 

( Also see Digest, 17-24 June 2022)


In Chekhov, another town in the Moscow Region, three schoolboys were arrested for setting fire to a rail-side relay case. The FSB presumed that the 8 th -year schoolboys had got in touch via Telegram with an unidentified person who offered them money to damage Russia’s railway infrastructure. The actions of the three schoolboys could be classified as a terrorist act or sabotage (Articles 205 and 281 of the RF Criminal Code) and lead to sentences of imprisonment ranging from 10 years to life: anyone aged 14 and over, falls within the terms of those laws.


On the night of Tuesday 31 January and Wednesday 1 February, unidentified partisans disrupted the railroad services on the line linking the cities of Ivanovo and Kostroma (Central Russia). 

Memorials to those who perished in Dnipro (14 January 2023)

For the past two weeks people across the length and breadth of Russia have continued to place flowers and children’s toys at improvised memorials to those who suffered when a 9-storey residential building in the city of Dnipro (central Ukraine) was hit by a Russian missile (see Note [1] “Dnipro under Attack”).

Police in Russia have regularly destroyed these spontaneous acts of commemoration, but they soon reappear. This week an interactive map of the Flower Protests was published online. The map identifies (blue) memorials at sites already linked to Ukraine, e.g. the Lesya Ukrainka monument in Moscow; memorials at sites (purple) that may or may not be linked to Ukraine, e.g. Izhevsk (Volga), monument to Victims of Nuclear Disaster; and (red), the majority, memorials at other sites with no prior link to Ukraine, e.g. Svetlogorsk, monument to the dead of World War One.

By Sunday 5 February, there were 69 such sites of commemoration scattered across Russia, stretching from Svetlogorsk on the Baltic (Kaliningrad Region), to the country’s central regions and the Urals, and beyond to western Siberia and the Pacific port of Vladivostok. The map also shows memorials in neighbouring countries to the Ukrainian victims of Russian shelling and bombardment: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Armenia and occupied Crimea. The map includes a photograph of the flowers strewn at the memorial in a particular town or city. (The authors of the Flower Protests map preferred to remain anonymous.)

NOTES about the 14 January Dnipro attack [1] and the Flower Protests [2] are appended to this digest.

Мапа квіткового протесту The Flower Protests in 69 towns and cities. Sources: Alexandra Arkhipova’s “Unamusing Anthropology” and the Vesna Telegram channel (Svodka Material). 

The Flower Protests in 69 towns and cities. Sources: Alexandra Arkhipova’s “Unamusing Anthropology” and the Vesna Telegram channel (Svodka Material). 


Improvised memorials appeared in St Petersburg (Northwest Russia); Cheboksary (Chuvashia, Volga); Tomsk (west Siberia); Miass (Chelyabinsk Region, Urals); and other locations.

“To the victims of the war in Ukraine”, read the dedications in the top row. Those in row 2 have been placed at memorials to the “Victims of Bolshevik Political Repression” in the USSR. The memorial text in photo 2 (row 3) reads: “Chuvashia grieves for the deaths of civilians in Kyiv, Odesa, Dnipro, Kherson, Kryvyi Rih, Chernihiv, Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities, towns and population centres”.

Memorials across Russia

Memorials across Russia


Москва, меморіал біля пам’ятника Лесі Українці Flowers and texts at the monument in Moscow to Ukrainian poet and dramatist Lesya Ukrainka (1871-1913) (photos, digest compilers). Top row: “In memory of those who perished”; “No to the War, 29 February 2022”. Bbottom row: “Kramatorsk 2023. No to the War”

Flowers and texts at the monument in Moscow to Ukrainian poet and dramatist Lesya Ukrainka (1871-1913) (photos, digest compilers). Top row: “In memory of those who perished”; “No to the War, 29 February 2022”. Bbottom row: “Kramatorsk 2023. No to the War”

In other news…

In Krasnodar (South Russia) Olesya and Alexei Ovchinnikov were arrested for

making anti-war comments during a private conversation. The couple were seated in a restaurant and began talking about the war. Another customer overheard their conversation and summoned the police. On arrival the police forced the Ovchinnikovs to lie face down and handcuffed for an hour, filming them all the time. Then they were taken away to a police station and held until morning. Alexei was sentenced to a fortnight in jail; his wife was fined one thousand roubles.


Charges were brought against Victoria T., a resident of the Black-Sea resort of Sochi (South Russia) for her status on WhatsApp. On Wednesday 1 February she included the slogan “Glory to Ukraine” in the Korean language. She was charged under Article 20 (Administrative Offences) with a “public display of extremist symbols (Nazi, etc)”. She faces up to 15 days in jail or a fine not exceeding 2,000 roubles.


A 100-metre-wide image of Pablo Picasso’s “Dove of Peace” appeared on the ice of Lake Onega in Karelia (Northwest Russia). The photographer Igor Podgorny created the image with the help of other activists.


[1] Dnipro under Attack In 2022, Ukraine’s fourth largest city Dnipro (Dnipropetrovsk Region) was regularly bombed and shelled by Russia’s armed forces: in March, June, July, September, October (twice) and November. The attack on Saturday, 14 January 2023 was the worst yet, taking 46 lives and injuring 80. The million-strong city is located in central Ukraine, several hundred miles west of the frontline.

Dnipro, 14 January 2023 (Photo, the Ukrainian Emergency Service)

Dnipro, 14 January 2023 (Photo, the Ukrainian Emergency Service)

[2] A report on the Vesna Telegram channel. Our fellow citizens continue to create popular monuments in memory of those who died in Dnipro. The Kholoda website reports that 85 such memorials have appeared in 62 towns and cities. People keep sending us photos from Moscow and St Petersburg where new flowers are added to such memorials every day. In the Russian capital there are memorials by the monuments to poet and dramatist Lesya Ukrainka, to the father of Ukrainian literature Taras Shevchenko and by the Solovki Stone next to FSB headquarters. In St Petersburg flowers are brought every day to memorials to Shevchenko and to the Victims of Political Repression. On the Volga, inhabitants of Izhevsk (Udmurtia) have begun to lay flowers at the monument to Victims of Radiation Accidents (1986 Chernobyl). A new memorial has appeared in Svetlogorsk (Kaliningrad Region, Northwest Russia) by the monument to the dead of the First World War. In South Russia and the North Caucasus, reports the Kavkaz Realities website, the authorities have been trying to destroy these memorials. So far, the police have rarely taken an interest in the laying of flowers, but we ask our readers to take care if they are taking part in the creation of such a memorial.

The report was prepared by Memorial volunteers from information in SOTA, OVD-Info; 7x7 Horizontal Russia; Feminist Anti-War Resistance; Vesna, Aktivatika and other sources.

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