- Local lawmakers in St. Petersburg and Moscow have called for Putin’s resignation following the war in Ukraine.
- St. Petersburg lawmakers were reportedly told by police that they now face charges.
- Putin’s opponents have already found themselves behind bars or dead.
Local Russian lawmakers in St. Petersburg and Moscow this week issued calls for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be removed from office over the war in Ukraine – a potentially risky move in a country where dissent can lead to imprisonment or worse.
City deputies from the Smolninsky District Council in St. Petersburg, the Russian president’s hometown, issued a statement calling on the Russian parliament to remove Putin from power and charge him with high treason for initiating the war in Ukraine, according to the Washington Post.
On Wednesday, Deputy Dmitry Palyuga tweeted the document, which read: “We believe that President Putin’s decision to launch the special military operation is detrimental to the security of Russia and its citizens.”
“The Smolninskoye City District Council has decided to appeal to State Duma deputies with a proposal to bring treason charges against President Putin in order to remove him from office,” Palyuga said in the tweet along with the document, adding: “The decision was supported by the majority of MPs present.”
In the aftermath, lawmakers were told by police that they faced legal action “due to actions aimed at discrediting the current Russian government,” the Post reported.
Lawmakers from a city council in Moscow’s Lomonosovsky district made a similar move, also calling on Putin to step down.
“The rhetoric that you and your subordinates have used for a long time is laced with intolerance and aggression, which has finally sent our country back into the Cold War era,” local lawmakers in Moscow said in a statement, as reported by Latvia-based investigative newspaper The Insider.
“Russia is once again feared and hated, and we are once again threatening the world with nuclear weapons,” they added. “In view of the above, we ask you to resign from your post, because your views and your model of government are hopelessly outdated and hinder the development of Russia and its human potential.”
Shortly after ordering the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in late February, Putin signed a law banning the spread of so-called “fake news” about the Russian military. Those found guilty could land in prison for up to 15 years. Rights groups and activists have denounced the move as a blatant attempt to stifle free speech and legitimate criticism of the war.
Putin’s critics often ended up in prison or died violently or mysteriously.
Putin’s most high-profile opponent, Alexei Navalny, was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok in August 2020, but he managed to survive the attempt on his life. Navalny was jailed less than a year later on charges widely condemned as politically motivated, and he remains behind bars.
Despite recent calls from some local lawmakers, it is highly unlikely that Russia’s rubber-stamp parliament will decide to oust Putin or that such efforts will have any impact on the war in Ukraine.
“We understand that Putin will not shed a tear and stop the operation,” Nikita Yuferev, one of St. Petersburg’s advisers, told The Post.
“These demands are written for people who are still in Russia and for whom the propaganda is trying to assure that they are the minority, that there is no one who is against this,” Yuferev said.
Contrary to official Russian statements, the Russian military struggled to make gains in Ukraine while suffering huge losses.
The Pentagon recently said that the number of Russian victims in Ukraine was estimated at 80,000. Meanwhile, the West moved to cripple the Russian economy through harsh sanctions while working to politically isolate Moscow. Russia has been condemned around the world for invading Ukraine, and its army has been accused of war crimes and other atrocities.
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