Two regional Russian lawmakers were marked as traitors after they condemned the invasion of Ukraine and called on Vladimir Putin to pull back Russian troops.

During a legislative session of the Primorsky Krai in far-eastern Russia, member of the Communist Party Leonid Vasyukevich shocked the assembly after he began to read out an appeal addressed to the Russian president demanding the immediate withdrawal of military forces in Ukraine.

Reports say that Vasyukevich’s microphone was almost immediately cut off, but journalists present during the assembly were able to make out his statement.

“We understand that if our country does not stop the military operation, then there will be even more orphans. As a result of the military operation, young men who could have made a substantial contribution to the development of our country are dying and becoming cripples,” the deputy was quoted as saying.

Vasyukevich claimed that the invasion was lost and called for a prompt end to the fruitless bloodshed.

“It has been almost three months, and it is not possible to succeed by means of warfare. The continuation of the military operation will lead to the increased numbers of dead and wounded military personnel. We demand the immediate withdrawal of the Russian troops from Ukraine. We demand an end to the hostilities!”

Other lawmakers in the gathering tried to interrupt Vasyukevich’s speech by shouting at him, saying that the deputy did not have permission to speak and that the invasion of Ukraine was not part of the meeting’s agenda.

At the end of his address, Vasyukevich read out three names of other deputies that he claimed to have signed an appeal to stop the war. Two of those individuals, Natalia Kochugova and Alexander Sustov, immediately denied having done so. However, Deputy Gennady Shulga supported his fellow party member.

The region’s governor, Oleg Kozhemyako, who was supposed to discuss the territory’s annual report, ordered Vasyukevich and Shulga to be escorted out of the legislative assembly.

Sustov said in an interview that Vasyukevich shared his “personal thoughts about the special military operation [in Ukraine]” but denied signing the statement that was delivered by the deputy.

“I was very surprised to see my signature on the message,” said Kochugova. “I haven’t signed this statement or even read it. Therefore, I was very surprised when my name was heard in connection with this statement of my comrades.”

“The action defames the Russian Army and our defenders who are fighting against Nazism. You are a traitor,” Kozhemyako said, pertaining to Vasyukevich.

Condemned by Their Own

Leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) in the Primorsky Legislative Assembly, Anatoly Dolgachev, did not bother to intervene to help Vasyukevich and Shulga. Instead, Dolgachev condemned his colleagues’ actions and vowed strict punishment against the defectors.

“I think we will give a political assessment of your actions. And especially to those who are members of the party, we will take the toughest measures. You discredit the honor of the CPRF with such statements,” Dolgachev said.

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The CPRF faction is notorious for supporting the self-proclaimed separatist states in Ukraine’s Donbas region. It was the Russian Communist Party that called on Putin and the Kremlin to recognize the independence of the offshoot republics earlier this year.

Putin’s “special military operation” came shortly after the Russian president recognized the independence of the separatists Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, two so-called republics that have not been recognized by the international community. These so-called republics have been an integral part of the Kremlin’s narrative to justify its invasion of Ukraine.

Sowing Dissent

Vasyukevich and Shulga were not the first Russian politicians to publicly express their opposition to the war in Ukraine.

In the early days of the Russo-Ukrainian war, the leader of the communist factions in the Komi State Council in Russia, Viktor Vorobyov, denounced the war, saying that “there is no justification for what is happening in Ukraine in international law.”

Head of Moscow’s Krasnoselsky district Yelena Kotenochkina (Илья Яшин). Source: https://twitter.com/IlyaYashin/status/1520070937563078658
Head of Moscow’s Krasnoselsky district Yelena Kotenochkina (Илья Яшин/Twitter)

War opposition leader and local council member in Moscow, Yelena Kotenochkina tried to set up a petition in March calling for an end to the unjust invasion of Ukraine. The Kremlin responded to the petition by sending it to criminal investigators to go after Kotenochkina. Later that same month, a member of the CPRF Nina Belyayeva publicly denounced the invasion in a city council meeting held in Russia’s Voronezh region.

Dissent among Russian politicians has been growing as the war in Ukraine drags on its fourth month. Opposition against the invasion has now reached even the highest echelons of the Russian ruling class.

Speculation that Putin is slowly losing his control over the Kremlin because of his deteriorating health has become more common in recent weeks. So much so that recent insider reports claim that Putin’s own inner circle has been discussing in private possible replacements for the Russian president.