The Russian Interfax news agency reported that Russian authorities were on the hunt for “arsonists” who attacked the military enlistment office in the city of Nizhnevartovsk The building was attacked by two people early on May 4, authorities believe, but have provided no official explanation for the culprits’ motives.
The alarm was raised just after 3am local time.
A source told Interfax the perpetrators had attempted to set the administrative building alight.
The agency added that social media channels claimed Molotov cocktails had been tossed into the building.
A Molotov cocktail is an improvised explosive device in which a flammable item is typically placed inside a fuel container which smashes when launched.
Interfax reported that one of the devices failed to catch light when tossed into the building, but the second made contact with wooden panelling. The fire was rapidly put out, the agency added, as the Kremlin attempted to quash domestic opposition to the invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow called a “special military operation”.
The attack on the enlistment building has not been officially linked to anti-war sentiment in Russia, but the Kremlin has cracked down on all forms of perceived protest against the ongoing conflict.
Within weeks of the February 24 invasion, the Russian Parliament passed a law banning the spreading of “fake” news about the Russian military.
Those found guilty of breaking this law could face a 15-year jail term.
The chairman of Russia’s lower parliamentary house, Vyacheslav Volodin, said: “This law will force punishment – and very tough punishment – on those who lied and made statements which discredited our armed forces.”
Within three days of the new law being passed, Russian authorities opened at least 60 new cases on the bases of “discrediting” the Russian military, mostly against peaceful protesters in Russia, according to watchdog organisation Human Rights Watch.
Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, described this as a “ruthless effort” to extinguish anti-war rumblings in Russia.
In March, he said: “These new laws are part of Russia’s ruthless effort to suppress all dissent and make sure the population does not have access to any information that contradicts the Kremlin’s narrative about the invasion of Ukraine.”
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Despite the threats of hefty jail time, protests have still been held across Russia, including through the subtle gesture of wearing a green ribbon in public.
Taken as a sign of silent protest, anti-war flyers and wearing the colours of the Ukrainian flag have also been taken as evidence of “discrediting the Russian armed forces”, according to Deutsch Welle.
Human rights lawyer Elsa Nizanbekova described “en mass persecution” for token anti-war gestures such as these.
She said: “People who criticise the military deployment more often and more loudly than others are implicated in different ways in ongoing proceedings.
“All of that, of course, is simply intended to intimidate. The authorities believe they can silence people with raids and criminal prosecutions.”