Russians tell BBC reporter they were forced to attend Putin's big pro-war rally
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the Kremlin. Kay Nietfeld/dpa

A major pro-war rally was held today in the Russian capital of Moscow, but many people who attended told the BBC's Will Vernon that they were coerced into doing so.

Writing on Twitter, Vernon tells stories about people he spoke with who said they had little option but to attend.

"Many said they worked in the public sector (e.g. schoolteachers), and that they had been pressured into attending by their employers," writes Vernon. "One group of teachers, from a town near Moscow, were being told what to say to us by a woman who appeared to be from the local administration."

Another man who said he worked for the Moscow Metro explicitly said he was forced against his will to attend.

"I'll be here for a while and then I'll leave," he told Vernon. "I think most people here don't support the war. I don't."

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Vernon also talked with some students who were told they would get the day off from classes if they attended a "concert" that they later learned was actually a pro-war rally.

Despite all this, Vernon also acknowledges that "there were doubtless some people in attendance who genuinely support President Putin and the 'special military operation in Ukraine.'"

Read the full thread here.

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