Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
A video showing the back-to-back detentions of anti-war and pro-war activists in central Moscow went viral Sunday for its illustration of the extent of Russia's protest crackdown amid its invasion of Ukraine.
“Do you think if I just say ‘two words,’ I’ll get arrested?” a woman holding a small card with the inscription asked a cameraman in a video posted by the activist collective Activatica.
The phrase “two words” (or “два слова” in Russian) appears to hint at the phrase “no to war” (or “нет войне” in Russian), which shares the same number of letters.
Videos from anti-war pickets across Russia have shown police arresting activists as soon as they unfurl banners with “no to war” and other inscriptions on them. At least one video has showed people being rounded up immediately after unrolling a clean sheet without any writing.
“You’re already being detained,” the cameraman said as three uniformed officers swooped in to detain the woman and lead her toward a set of police vans.
Moments later, the camera pointed to another woman who asked the man if he films “exclusively the opposition or those who have a different opinion as well?”
When told that “we broadcast all opinions,” the woman appeared to launch into a speech in support of Russia's "special military operation" in Ukraine.
But before she was able to finish the opening phrase “I’m satisfied with,” two uniformed officers nabbed her and led her in the same direction as the first activist.
Some viewers noted that the pro-war activist physically resembles the woman who physically confronted a renowned human rights activist on his way to the prosecutor’s office earlier in March.
Online users expressed the opinion that the pro-war activist may be a “paid provocateur” but were unable to identify her by name.
It was also not immediately clear whether the opposing activists were released and, if so, in which order.
Activatica shared the video, which was viewed 800,000 times on Twitter alone, on the day of rallies in opposition to President Vladimir Putin’s orders to invade neighboring Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Nearly 1,000 people across three dozen Russian cities were detained on Sunday, according to independent monitors.
OVD-Info, which tallies arrests and provides legal assistance to those detained, said more than 14,000 Russians have been detained across the country since the start of the invasion.