Protesters took to public squares and outside Russian embassies in cities from Tokyo to Tel Aviv and New York to denounce the invasion of Ukraine, while more than a thousand who tried to do the same in Russia were arrested.
The first known protest took place outside the Russian embassy in Washington around 1 a.m. Thursday (5 p.m. AEDT), just three hours after President Vladimir Putin said he had launched his military operation.
Local reports showed dozens of protesters in the US capital waving Ukrainian flags and chanting “Stop Russian aggression!”
In London, hundreds of protesters, many of them Ukrainians and some in tears, gathered outside Downing Street, the prime minister’s home, urging Britain to do more.
“We need help, we need someone to support us,” said one. “Ukraine is too small and the pressure is too great.”
In Paris, a protester told Reuters: “I feel that we are in a very dangerous moment for the whole world”.
In Madrid, Oscar-winning Spanish actor Javier Bardem, nominated for another Oscar this year, joined around 100 protesters outside the Russian Embassy.
“It’s an invasion. … It violates Ukraine’s fundamental right to territorial sovereignty, international law and many other things,” Bardem said.
A giant flag was carried through Times Square in Manhattan by a crowd of several hundred protesters.
In the Swiss capital Bern, hundreds of people gathered, holding Ukrainian flags and chanting “Peace for Ukraine!”.
A small protest in Geneva, organized by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), outside the European headquarters of the UN, condemned what the group called a threat of Putin to use nuclear weapons.
Other demonstrations took place in Beirut, Tel Aviv, Dublin and Prague.
Also in Dublin, a Russian double eagle crest next to the door of the Russian Embassy has been defaced with red paint.
More protests were planned for later in the day in the US cities of Houston and Denver, according to social media posts.
In Russia itself, protesters defied an official warning that explicitly threatened criminal prosecution and even jail time for those who called or participated in the protests.
Hundreds of people gathered in 53 cities, including Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Yekaterinburg, chanting slogans such as “No to war!” and holding makeshift signs.
By Thursday evening, police had arrested as many as 1,667 people in 53 cities, rights watchdog OVD-Info said. Six hundred were arrested in Moscow alone, the Tass news agency reported.
Protesters defied a warning issued Thursday by the Investigative Committee, a sort of Russian response to the FBI, which explicitly threatened criminal prosecution and even jail time for people calling or participating in protests.
Russia’s telecommunications regulator on Thursday warned media not to broadcast what it called “false information” about Moscow’s massive military operation against Ukraine and threatened to block offensive content.
Australian Associated Press