More Than 1,700 Arrested Amid Russia's Biggest Protest in 13 Months

More than 1,700 people were arrested across Russia on Thursday as protesters took to the streets in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The protests marked the largest Russia has seen since rallies were held in support of Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny in early 2021, during which the independent Russian human rights organization OVD-Info reported thousands were taken into custody by police. Thousands of people in Russia similarly rallied Thursday in a show of rejection for Russian President Vladimir Putin's early morning invasion of Ukraine, a move that has been widely condemned by leaders around the world.

By Thursday night, OVD-Info reported at least 1,745 people in cities across Russia had been arrested, with nearly 1,000 arrested in the country's capital, according to The Associated Press.

The number of arrestees climbed to at least 1,758 shortly after midnight local time Friday morning, OVD-Info reported. Though protesters were taken into custody in more than 50 cities, the bulk of reported arrests took place in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

OVD-Info is updating its arrest reports in real time with the names and locations of arrestees also available on its website.

World leaders were quick to condemn Russia's actions in Ukraine, with U.S. President Joe Biden calling the invasion "an unprovoked and unjustified attack."

In comments Biden delivered to the public Thursday afternoon, he described Russian President Vladimir Putin's military escalation as "premeditated" and said it was "unfolding largely as we predicted."

"He moved blood supplies into position and built a field hospital, which tells you all you need to know about his intentions all along," Biden said.

In an address of his own on Thursday, Putin said his "special military operation" was intended to "protect people who, for eight years now, have been facing humiliation and genocide perpetrated by the Kiev regime."

"To this end, we will seek to demilitarise and denazify Ukraine, as well as bring to trial those who perpetrated numerous bloody crimes against civilians, including against citizens of the Russian Federation," Putin said.

Biden on Thursday described the leadup to Russia's invasion as "staged political theater" and said Putin's allegations of genocide in Ukraine were "without any evidence."

As reports spread of people in Russia encouraging participation in anti-war demonstrations, the Investigative Committee of Russia released a statement discouraging "unauthorized events" that were "associated with the tense foreign policy situation."

"We remind that calls for participation and direct participation in events that are not authorized in accordance with the established procedure entail serious legal consequences," the committee said. "The law provides for severe punishment for organizing mass riots, as well as for resisting law enforcement officers."

Update: 2/24/22 6:50 P.M.This article has been updated with additional information and background.

Russian protests
OVD-Info reported more than 1,700 protesters were arrested across Russia on February 24, 2022. Above, police officers detain a demonstrator during a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Moscow on February 24, 2022. KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images