Russian Petition Against Ukraine War Gets 1.5 Million Signatures

Russians are opposing President Vladimir Putin's war in their droves with more than 1.5 million people signing a petition organized by a human rights activist calling for an end to the conflict.

Lev Ponomaryov, a prominent political activist in Russia, started the petition titled "Stop the War with Ukraine" after Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine a week ago.

"We demand an immediate ceasefire by the Russian Armed Forces, and their immediate withdrawal from the territory of the sovereign state of Ukraine," the petition said, which as of Thursday, had surpassed its goal of 1.5 million signatures.

The petition described as "war criminals" those who decided to start hostilities in the east of Ukraine, and "sanctioned aggressive and war-justifying propaganda in the Russian media."

"We will seek to hold them accountable for their deeds," the petition said.

"Stop this criminal war!" wrote one signatory, while another said, "what's happening is like a terrible dream. No war!" Stop this madness!"

On March 3, Ponomaryov asked for signatories' permission to have their names attached to the petition which would be handed to the Russian president on Saturday.

"The time has come for our public position to become an official appeal to the political leadership of the country, personally to the President of Russia," the petition update published Thursday said, and "we are in a hurry, because every day of the continuation of the war is paid with a monstrous price."

The petition also provided links to open letters from a number of organizations in Russia including NGOs, teachers' groups, scientists and local government workers who have publicly opposed the war.

Anger against the war in Ukraine is growing throughout Russia where many citizens have close ties with their neighbor.

Despite the threat of being targeted by the authorities, the anti-war movement in Russia is gathering support online, through social networks and encrypted messaging services such as Telegram and Signal. On Tuesday, the hashtag #ЯпротивВойны (I'm against the war) was trending in Russia.

Russians across the country have risked arrest by protesting and as of Thursday morning, more than 7,600 people had been detained according to the OVD-Info human rights group.

On Tuesday, police in Moscow detained two women and five children, aged 7 to 11, who wanted to lay flowers at the Ukrainian embassy. Images of their detention showed the children holding a poster saying "No to War" before they were reportedly released hours later.

In the Sakhalin region, in Russia's far east than 600 signed an open letter to Putin titled "We are against the war" and calling an immediate ceasefire. "We don't want to live in international isolation."

Russian protest
A man holding up a placard reading "No to war!" protests against Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Saint Petersburg on February 24, 2022. Many Russians have taken to the streets and have signed a petition opposing Russia's invasion of Ukraine. SERGEI MIKHAILICHENKO/Getty