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Elderly woman who survived Nazi siege of Leningrad arrested in Russian anti-war protest

An elderly woman who took part in an anti-war protest in St Petersburg to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been arrested.

Yelena Osipova, 77, a well-known activist and artist who survived the Nazi Germany’s Siege of Leningrad as a baby, was at the protest site in St Petersburg on Wednesday holding two anti-war placards that urged soldiers to lay down their arms.

The Russian authorities detained her as the crowd chanted anti-war slogans around them. Thousands of people have reportedly been detained so far.

Hundreds of Russians have taken to the streets of Moscow, St Petersburg, and other cities over the week to protest against the illegal invasion on Ukraine.

The video of her arrest was widely circulated on Twitter and Reddit, where social media users lauded her for her courage and bravery while condemning Russia’s crackdown on anti-war protests.

Some users called the incident “spine-tingling”, while others asked: “What sort of government is scared of a little old lady holding placards?”

“I have been angry about everything going on but I’ve been collected, but this...this enrages me,” one user wrote on Reddit.

They added: “Imagine sending an old woman to jail, who survived not only the bloodiest campaign of the Nazi invasion, but also the bloodiest battle of your country’s entire history.”

The arrest came the same day Russian forces attacked Ukraine’s second biggest city Kharkiv, with heavy bombardment while Russia’s week-long invasion was denounced by the United Nations in a historic vote and dozens of countries referred Moscow to be probed for potential war crimes.

The invasion – the biggest attack on a European country since 1945 – has caused more than one million people to flee, according to the UN refugee agency, and has led to a barrage of economic measures against Russia.

Though the incursion is yet to overthrow the government in Kyiv, thousands are thought to have died or been injured. There are also fears of a nuclear war and deep damage to the world economy that is still recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.

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