Police in Russia’s second-biggest city St. Petersburg have arrested at least 350 anti-war protesters on Wednesday, according to local monitor site OVD-Info.
Multiple videos show that police arrested an elderly woman holding anti-war and anti-nuclear signs while protesters cheered and applauded for the woman. At least 7,615 people have been detained in anti-war protests in Russia since last Thursday according to OVD-info.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in an interview, “any rhetoric about the employment of nuclear weapons is dangerous.” Austin was asked if he has seen any actions backing up President Vladimir Putin’s recent statements regarding Russia’s nuclear weapons.
“Any rhetoric about the employment of nuclear weapons is dangerous, and I think we should avoid that if at all possible,” Austin told NBC’s Lester Holt during the interview that aired Wednesday. “It creates the climate, it creates the conditions for gross miscalculations, and we don’t want to see that happen,” he said.
Putin placed his strategic forces, including nuclear weapons, on a heightened state of alert over the weekend. Austin said he is “comfortable” with the US’s nuclear posture, adding “I’m confident that we can defend not only ourselves, but our allies and partners.”
Earlier Wednesday, Austin cancelled a planned test of the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile that was initially scheduled to occur this week to avoid “any actions that could be misunderstood or misconstrued” during heightened tensions with Russia, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters during a briefing at the Pentagon.