The protest in Moscow was so small and so overrun with press in yellow vests you could hardly make out the few solitary figures who'd had the courage to come to the designated spot at the appointed time. But the police have their ways.
One by one, people who'd been doing nothing but standing there were hauled off and thrown into the backs of police vans. More women than men - but men also, who risk being issued with draft notices at the detention centres tonight.
There's no point in talking to people there because a camera identifies them as a protester and they'll get taken away immediately.
One woman yelled "we are not meat" as she was dragged past. A woman in a wheelchair with a prosthetic leg held a sign saying: "Do you want to be like me?"
The police ripped it out of her hands but thankfully, they let her be.
A female medic we spoke to well away from the action said she'd treat whoever she had to, even though she hasn't received a call up - many medics have. But she said she was disappointed in her government.
"Can protest make any difference?" I ask.
"Ten years ago, maybe," she said sadly. "Not now."
Not far from the rally, residents of Donbas were voting at a polling station established in the recently opened embassy of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic. They won't be needing an embassy soon if Russia declares it a part of its territory, which will almost certainly happen at some point next week after polls close on Tuesday. There is no legal foundation to these "referenda," but that didn't bother the eager voters we met.
"We are for Putin, we are for reunification with Russia. We love it, adore it, we just want to be together," said one woman, veritably skipping through the gates. "During these eight years Donbas went through so much. If you only knew how they bombed, how they bullied us."
"Inform your leadership that Biden is a killer, a bloody killer, Biden and Zelenskyy," another woman says, seemingly incensed by the fact I was from the UK. "You know what I want to say to Britain? Stop giving Ukraine weapons. Stop it! We are saving our children but there they are being killed."
Their children may grow up to see a Russia after Putin, but the legacy he will leave is a dark one.
As we return to see what's happening at the protest, a young woman comes up to us, clutching something inside her jumper. "Can you film me? I have a placard," she asks.
We tell her she'll be arrested right away. "That's what I want."
She holds up the placard. It says "I'm scared", in Russian. I tell her it's brave to do this. Then the police come.
As they cart her away, she says "it's better that than to live in today's Russia".