Russian officials deny they asked Vladimir Putin to end the war

Two Russian officials who are said to have signed an appeal to Russian President Putin calling for an end to his war in Ukraine have denied it shortly after their colleague was labeled a traitor and escorted out of a high-level meeting.

MPs Natalya Kochugova and Aleksandr Sustov were two of the four officials who signed an appeal to Putin urging him to end the months-long war in Ukraine and withdraw his troops, according to Russian Communist Party member Leonid Vasyukevich in the country.

Vasyukevich told a session of the Legislative Assembly of Russia’s Far East Primorsky Krai that the group is call for an end to the war.

“We understand that if our country doesn’t stop this military operation, there will be more orphans,” Vasyukevich said in a rare criticism of what Putin calls a “special military operation.”

Vasyukevich read a statement signed by himself, his colleague Gennady Shulga, as well as Kochugova and Sustov, and continued: “During the military operation, young people who could bring great benefit to our country die and are disabled.”

“We demand the immediate withdrawal of troops from the Russian Federation,” he added.

The incident caused a stir when the region’s governor, Oleg Kozhemyako, called Vasyukevich a “traitor”.

Vasyukevich and Shulga were both escorted from the meeting and denied voting rights at the meeting, independent Russian-language news agency MediaZona reported.

According to the RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty news agency, Sustov refused to sign the appeal to Putin and called for an end to the war.

He told RFE/RL he had “my personal thoughts on the military special operation [in Ukraine,] but I didn’t sign the statement.”

Russian state agency Interfax reported that Kochugova also refused to sign the appeal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Two Russian officials who allegedly signed an appeal calling for an end to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine denied it shortly after their colleague was branded a traitor and escorted out of a high-level meeting. Pictured is Putin chairing a meeting on economic issues in Moscow on February 17, 2022.
ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images

It comes amid a wider crackdown on free speech in Russia, which intensified after Putin launched a full-scale war against Ukraine on February 24.

Russia’s parliament passed a law in March providing for a prison sentence of up to 15 years for intentionally spreading “fake” news about the Russian military. The Kremlin has used the law to crack down on individuals and independent news organizations who deviate from Putin’s portrayal of the war.

Anatoly Dolgachev, the leader of the Russian Communist Party faction, told Friday’s session that he would take “tough measures” against Vasyukevich and Shulga.

This “absolute démarche is not coordinated with the political group,” he said, adding that their statements “discredit the honor” of the party.

news week asked the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Legislative Assembly of the Primorsky Krai for an opinion. Russian officials deny they asked Vladimir Putin to end the war

Rick Schindler

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