Russia: Young Activists Fight Against the Invasion

Young Russians protest against the war in Ukraine. Photo: Vesna

Vesna, a Russian youth movement, is one of the most active movements against the war in Ukraine. It started the day after Russia launched its aggression against Ukraine, when Russian citizens came out to protest against the invasion. They were mainly young Russians, many of whom have been detained and even more have fled the country. But they are not giving up.

”Since the invasion began, we have been running an anti-war campaign. That’s what takes up almost all our time now”, says Maria Lakhina, an active member of Vesna.

Above is a slideshow of demonstrations in Russia since the war began. For those protesting, the risk of being brutally beaten and arrested is high. Photos: Vesna.

Vesna was founded in 2013 in St Petersburg by university students who sought a democratic Russia, a country that respects human rights and fundamental freedoms. Almost all of those who founded Vesna have been forced to flee the country. The organisation has been labelled an enemy of Russia, which means it can no longer operate within in Russia. They still do protests, but in secret.

Vesna started as a protest in St Petersburg, and then grew into a youth movement, active across Russia. Already in 2014, Vesna first protested against Russia’s annexation and war on Ukraine. In 2018, they supported Alexi Navalny’s presidential election campaign. They have also held training programs for young people on democracy and human rights.

The day after Russia attacked Ukraine, Vesna launched a campaign against the war. Since then, they have published thousands of images and texts in support of those who dare to protest in Russia. Most of their leaders have had to leave the country. Some have been beaten and other are facing trials and risking prison.

Following Putin’s decision in September 2022, to mobilize young and older men to take part in the invasion of Ukraine, Vesna has posted hundreds of posts on how to avoid being drafted and forced to fight in Ukraine. They now have a hundred thousand followers on Telegram (in Russian only) and ten thousand on Twitter:

Gatukonst om hotet om ett kärnvapenkrig dök upp i S:t Petersburg. Kommunala arbetare målade snabbt över graffitin.

”We spread our values to young people in Russia. The goal is to create a form of civic engagement among young people. Since the invasion began in February 2022, we have launched an anti-war campaign. That’s what takes up almost all our time now,” says Maria Lakhina, an active member of the Vesna youth movement.

Anyone aged 14-35 who accepts Vesna’s values is welcome to join the movement. They have activists spread all over Russia, but almost the entire the core group of Vesna, some 100 people have fled the country. Many left for countries that were part of the former Soviet Union. But they continue to work against the regime.

”Our focus now is to get out information on how to avoid being drafted and forced to fight in Ukraine. Many Russian men don’t know that you have to be formally enlisted first to really risk the high penalties that exist for those who desert”, Maria continues.

”One day this war will end and we believe it can’t go on for many years. Our dream is to have a democratic country and we will fight for this. And when the war ends, it will also mean the end of Putin’s regime”, says Michael Tukh.

If you want to follow Vesna’s work, they have an account on Telegram with over 100,000 followers and a Twitter account.

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