In a move that has evoked global condemnation, Russia has detained more than 1,700 people protesting against Moscow’s action to launch a full-scale evacuation in Ukraine on Thursday.

According to news agency AFP, about 1,000 people gathered in the former imperial capital Saint Petersburg on Thursday while several thousands gathered near Pushkin Square in central Moscow

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Protesters in the Pushkin square chanted: “No to war!”

“I am in shock. My relatives and loved ones live in Ukraine,” Anastasia Nestulya, told AFP in Moscow on Thursday. “What can I tell them over the phone? You hang in there?” she said, adding that people were afraid to protest.

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Meanwhile, in Saint Petersburg, masked police officers were seen forcibly dragging protesters to detain them. The protesters also demanded Putin’s arrest.

“I have a feeling that the authorities have gone mad,” Svetlana Volkova told the news agency on Thursday, adding people had been fooled by propaganda.

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Apart from the locals, jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who has been the harshest critic of Vladimir Putin and his governance, said that he was against the invasion of Ukraine.

“This war between Russia and Ukraine was unleashed to cover up the theft from Russian citizens and divert their attention from problems that exist inside the country,” Navalny added.

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AFP reported that Russia’s full-scale attack on Ukraine has led to 137 deaths and more than 350 left wounded.

The attack began with the Russian military launching a series of missile strikes on cities and on key government and military installations. In the capital city of Kyiv, thousands of people sought shelter in the subway stations that doubled as bomb shelters.

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Elsewhere, thousands of civilians have fled Ukraine and crossed into neighbouring countries mostly Moldova and Romania.