On the anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine – February 24, 2023 – spontaneous memorials with flowers appeared in Russian cities in memory of the civilian victims of the war. Support for Ukraine was expressed across multiple global capitals – the Eiffel Tower in Paris was illuminated with the colors of the Ukrainian flag, while in Berlin, candles were used to form the peace symbol. Citizens across Europe and the US took to the main squares of their cities with posters condemning the Russian invasion and Ukrainian flags. In Russia, however, similar actions can now lead to charges of “discrediting” or “spreading fakes” about the army. In most cases, Russians left flowers, toys, and photos of destroyed Ukrainian houses near monuments and left, but some cities saw protest actions and single pickets. Some of the spontaneous memorials were controlled by police officers ready to detain Russians who disagreed with the war.
On the night of February 24, flowers began to appear at the Lesya Ukrainka monument in Moscow, with police on duty at the spontaneous memorial during the day. As noted by a SotaVision correspondent, there have been no detentions. According to the journalist, the yellow and blue flowers have already been removed. The police have also begun to check the documents of journalists working to document the scene.
The same monument to the Ukrainian writer became the site of a spontaneous memorial after a Russian missile hit a high-rise apartment building in Dnipro on January 14. Forty-five people were killed as a result of the missile's impact, including six children. Russians who came to lay flowers were detained at the memorial. Spontaneous memorials to the victims of the missile strike then appeared in dozens of cities across Russia.
Two St. Petersburg residents were detained for laying flowers at the monument to Ukrainian writer Taras Shevchenko, the site of another spontaneous memorial. Human rights project OVD-Info reported that Igor Shcherbakov and Mikhail Tereshchenko were taken to police department № 43. Local outlet Bumaga published a photo of the memorial, where residents brought flowers, candles and yellow and blue ribbons.
Residents of Kazan brought flowers, toys and photos of destroyed cities to the monument to victims of political repression in the city’s Leninsky Garden. Photos of the memorial were posted by Telegram channel CHTD.
A spontaneous memorial also appeared in the Siberian city of Tomsk near the Poklonnyi Cross. According to independent media outlet TV2, residents brought flowers and photos bearing the inscription “Dnipro 14.01.2023 Ukraine from 24.02.2022.” According to TV2, police officers were on duty at the city’s most popular protest locations. At least eight police officers were on duty in Novo-Sobornaya Square, and several law enforcement officers were spotted near the Stone of Sorrow.
Khabarovsk residents held pickets on February 24, according to a report from OVD-Info. One of the protesters, activist Nikolai Zodchy, was detained but then released. Zodchy was standing in the street holding a poster with screenshots of Russian President Vladimir Putin's speeches on Channel One before he was taken away by police.
Another Russian was detained in Vladivostok, but was later released by law enforcement without being charged. The man had gone to the city’s central square carrying an anti-war poster that read “Stop the fighting,” reported OVD-Info Live. The media outlet published a photo provided by the detained man.
A spontaneous memorial also appeared in Murmansk, with photos published by Avtozak Live.
A banner with the slogan “No more bloody 'struggle for peace’!” was hung on a bridge in Ivanovo, with an image of the banner published by the Telegram channel Free People of Ivanovo (“Svobodnye Lyudi Ivanova”).
A rally in memory of the victims of the Russian invasion of Ukraine was also scheduled to take place after midday at the Masks of Sorrow, a memorial to victims of political repression in Yekaterinburg. The protest was announced by the regional youth wing of Yabloko, Russia’s United Democratic Party. Local media outlet It's My City reported that the police were on duty at the memorial prior to the rally taking place.
Activists also took a stand against the war in Khanty-Mansiysk, laying flowers and posters with anti-war slogans at a local memorial.
Spontaneous memorials appeared in Novosibirsk, with no reports of locals being detained or arrested. Locals expressed their condolences to Ukrainians in the city’s Narymsky Square, at the Memorial Stone to the Victims of Political Repressions, and at the monument to Ukrainian writer Taras Shevchenko.
Law enforcement officers detained four people – three women and a young man – in the center of Barnaul in the Altai region following a protest action. The group staged a rally on Sovetov Square, eyewitnesses told OVD-Info. A local resident also came out with a poster reading “Enough Silence.”