RFE/RL – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Author)
Two Russian lawmakers in the Far Eastern region of Primorye Krai have been thrown out of the Communist Party's faction in the regional parliament after they called on President Vladimir Putin to stop military operations in Ukraine and withdraw all troops, in what was a rare display of political protest in Russia.
The second secretary of the Communist Party in the region, Yevgeny Lyashenko, said on May 31 that Leonid Vasyukevich and Gennady Shulga had been expelled from the party's faction for what he called "actions that discredit the party," adding that the two lawmakers were not members of the Communist Party, although they were in its parliamentary faction.
The decision to exclude the lawmakers was supported by the faction’s members unanimously. Vasyukevich and Shulga were not present at the gathering.
Two other members of the regional parliament, Natalya Kochugova and Aleksandr Sustov, were officially reprimanded for supporting Vasyukevich and Shulga.
Vasyukevich told the daily Kommersant that he and Shulga will continue to serve in the parliament as independent lawmakers.
On May 27, Vasyukevich read out a statement he said was signed by him and three other lawmakers, calling on Putin to stop the war in Ukraine.
The statement said that as Russian troops are suffering significant losses in Ukraine, there is no way to get any success by military means.
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, calling them "traitors."
The leader of the Communist lawmakers, Anatoly Dolgachyov, said the deputies' action will have "very severe repercussions."
Kochugova and Sustov said at the time they did not sign the statement.
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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