RFE/RL – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Autor)
In a rare display of political protest in Russia, a group of lawmakers representing the Communist Party in the Far Eastern region of Primorye have called on President Vladimir Putin to stop military operations in Ukraine and withdraw all troops from the country.
Leonid Vasyukevich, a member of the regional Legislative Assembly, read out the statement at a session held by lawmakers on May 27.
The statement said that as Russian troops are suffering significant losses in Ukraine, there is no way to get any success by military means.
"We understand that if our country does not stop the military operation, there will be more orphans in the country. During the military operation, young men are dying or becoming disabled, while they could be very useful for our country," the statement said.
Vasyukevich said that the statement was signed by him and his colleagues Gennady Shulga, Natalya Kochugova, and Aleksandr Sustov.
The region's governor, Oleg Kozhemyako, who was at the session, ordered Vasyukevich and Shulga, who vocally supported the statement, to be removed from the premises.
"The action defames the Russian Army and our defenders who are fighting against Nazism. You are a traitor," Kozhemyako said, addressing Vasyukevich.
The lawmakers then deprived Vasyukevich and Shulga of their right to take the floor at the session. The leader of the Communist lawmakers, Anatoly Dolgachyov, said the deputies' action will have "very severe repercussions."
Vasyukevich, Shulga, and Kochugova did not respond to an RFE/RL request for comment on the situation.
Sustov told RFE/RL that he had "my personal thoughts about the special military operation [in Ukraine,] but I did not sign the statement," contradicting Vasyukevich's statement.
The Interfax news agency reported that Kochugova said at the session that she did not sign the statement either.
Russia launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on February 24 and has met with much stiffer-than-expected resistance from Ukrainian troops.
Ukrainian and Western officials say thousands of Russian soldiers have died during the war.
Moscow has said little on the death toll. In its last official statement, the Defense Ministry said on March 25 that 1,351 of its soldiers had been killed in the fighting.
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