"Bring Russian Armed Forces Home"
If you thought all Russians were bloodthirsty lunatics hellbent on starting World War 3, you would be wrong. On Saturday, tens of thousands of liberal Muscovites queued up to pass through metal detectors and march down a route lined with police and metal barriers to convince Putin to give peace a chance. With 200,000 Russian troops pulling screwfaces at the border with Ukraine and 20,000 having invaded Crimea in the build-up to yesterday's plebiscite, it seemed a little late, but I guess it's good to make your voice heard anyway.
In fact, expressing your opinion is becoming a bit difficult in Russia at the moment. The march followed a crackdown that has seen opposition leader Alexey Navalny placed under house arrest and cut off from the internet and press, and much of Russia’s opposition and independent media shut down, or brought to heel. A similar peace protest last week resulted in dozens of people being dragged off by the police, with only elderly ladies getting away with yelling at cops, thanks to the niceties of local gender politics.
This weekend's protests were less dramatic and passed off without any disorder. Relatively confident that it wouldn't get me smashed round the face by police, I decided to pick the brains of some Muscovite peaceniks.
No war! No violence!
Russia! Wake up from your sleep!
A gang of thieves is scared of Navalny!
How much has been stolen from the people?
The Tatars have done well!
They said 'no' to fascism and 'no' to stupidity
VICE: Punchy sign. Why did you come out today?
Valaeriy Landin, 70: I have been alive for a long time. I lived under Stalin and suffered through a lot and I don’t want things to slide back. I want peace because I remember all the veterans when I was young who were missing limbs from fighting in the Great Patriotic War.
Crimea has a very special meaning for Russians. My wife is from there and we have family graves there we still visit. But we don’t want it like this. My friends warned me not to come today. They said bad things would happen to me. But I am a disabled veteran. It can’t get much worse. The Crimean Tatars have it right. They are standing up to Putin. They are good people, Muslims. They don’t even drink.
What are you holding?
Galina Bronina: It is a depiction of war.
What message are you trying to convey?
I don’t want any bloodshed. I have a son who is 30 and a daughter who is 15. My husband in Ukrainian. I want Ukraine to stay Ukraine and Russia to stay out.
Why are you here today?
Man and woman in white coats: Our patient escaped from the psych ward. He is schizophrenic and very dangerous. If you find him please let us know.
International sanctions for an international criminal! Send Putin to the Hague
Why did you come out?
Mikhail Agafonov, 36: Putin is a threat to the world and our country. I want him to face justice.
Change yourself and the world will change
What does that mean?
Yuliya, 34: Everything that happens in the world also places restrictions on each of our personal inner worlds. Our government and everything else that happens is a part of us. It affects us and it can’t be ignored.