Fears Putin will impose martial law in Russia after Ukrainian invasion
The EU is worried Vladimir Putin may impose martial law in Russia in order to crack down on anti-war protests in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
There have been protests in parts of Russia since the outbreak of hostilities last week, with major demonstrations in St Petersburg and Moscow.
Some 6,840 people have been detained at anti-war protests since the invasion began on 24 February, according to the OVD-Info protest monitoring group.
Russia has also taken moves to limit Facebook and other social media platforms in the country to stifle criticism as well as remove the ability for groups to coordinate protests.
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According to the Reuters news agency, one EU official said the bloc was picking up speculation on social media about potential Russian plans, which it said would be "completely home-produced".
"As is the tragic loss of young lives killed in the military conflict, with Russian mothers having to learn about the loss of their sons. So it is something we're conscious of, and it's something we're worried about," the official said.
Journalist Julia Ioffe said on Twitter one of her friends was trying to get across the border by car due to fears Putin is about to announce martial law.
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She said her friend told her to stop messaging her so they could wipe their phone in case it was scanned at the border.
There was speculation that Putin could make the announcement on Thursday night, although the Russian president did not mention it in his address to the nation at around 5.30pm UK time.
Russia's repression of the protests has been brutal, with images and videos appearing online showing people being beaten and carried away by police forces.
The Guardian reported on Wednesday police in Moscow detained two women and five children who tried to lay flowers at the Ukrainian embassy.
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Alongside the protests, prominent Russian anti-Putin critics have been vocal in their opinions about the war in Ukraine.
Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny called on Russians to stage daily protests against Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, depicting Putin as an "obviously insane tsar" – a reference to the titles the former rulers of the Russian Empire were given.
Navalny called for protests across the country and abroad to signal that not all Russians support the war and show solidarity with the thousands of people detained in anti-war protests in Russia since last week's invasion.
"We cannot wait even a day longer. Wherever you are. In Russia, Belarus or on the other side of the planet. Go out onto the main square of your city every weekday at 19.00 and at 14.00 at weekends and on holidays," he said in a statement published on Twitter by his spokesperson.
Navalny said Russia wanted to be a nation of peace, but few people would call it that now.
"Let’s at least not become a nation of frightened silent people. Of cowards who pretend not to notice the aggressive war against Ukraine unleashed by our obviously insane tsar," he said.
Navalny, the most prominent of Putin's opponents, was jailed last year after his return from Germany following treatment for what Western laboratory tests showed was an attempt to poison him with a nerve agent in Siberia.
He said he was sentenced on trumped-up charges.