Two men in Moscow have been arrested and face substantial fines for donning yellow and blue clothing, the colours of the Ukrainian flag, Russian media have reported.
The detentions come as the Russian authorities continue to display increased paranoia over protests against Moscow's attack on Ukraine.
On May 9, a national holiday celebrating the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, a 39-year-old man employed at a psycho-neurological care home for the elderly was arrested for showing up to work wearing a yellow and blue jacket. The man is now facing a RUB50,000 ($647) penalty for "public actions aimed at discrediting the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation," a law that has been frequently and arbitrarily utilised by the authorities to quash dissent and suppress anti-war protest since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
According to Shot, a Telegram channel, the man was detained after residents at the care home complained. He is scheduled to appear in court next week.
On the same day, Baza reported that a 26-year-old from Volgograd was arrested on Moscow's central Bolshaya Dmitrovka street for wearing trousers that were the same colour as the Ukrainian flag. Baza, a Telegram channel, is well known for its close connection to Russian law enforcement. He faces the same charge.
The latest arrests come a year after a string of fines in early 2022, shortly after President Vladimir Putin launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, when a handful of Russians were fined for “unauthorised protests” due to the colour of their clothing in March 2022, a woman in Moscow was fined RUB30,000 ($388) for wearing a yellow and blue hat, and another Muscovite was fined RUB10,000 ($129) for the colour of his sneakers.
In an interview with online news outlet Lenta, Russian MP Yaroslav Nilov criticised the detentions, and stated that it is a violation of human rights to arrest someone based solely on the colour of their clothes. Nilov is a senior member of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, which itself uses a blue and yellow colour scheme.
“There is no reason for prosecuting individuals based on their clothing,” he told the site. “At the LDPR, we too have blue and yellow flags and accessories. Detaining people for wearing specific colours will only turn society against the authorities and increase tension.”
Nilov also said that an explanation should be demanded from the law enforcement officers involved.
According to Dmitry Krasnov, a pro-government lawyer who is often quoted by Russian state media, it is unlikely that the arrested men will be fined if there is no evidence that they were protesting against the war and if they have no history of speaking out against the Russian army on social media.
“All the facts about these two citizens will be evaluated as a whole. If they are found to be members of extremist or nationalist organisations, or if they have links with foreign intelligence, it is highly probable that they will face punishment," he told OSNmedia.