A Russian official who demanded that President Vladimir Putin end the war against Ukraine was branded a traitor, escorted out of a high-level meeting and denied the right to vote, according to local media reports.
During a meeting of the Legislative Assembly of Russia’s Primorsky Krai in the far east of the country, a member of Russia’s Communist Party faction, Leonid Vasyukevich, appealed to Putin to stop the months-long war in Ukraine and to withdraw his troops from the country.
Speaking on behalf of four party members in a rare critique of what Putin describes a “special military operation,” Vasyukevich said he and his colleagues had signed an appeal to the president.
“We understand that if our country does not stop the military operation, there will be even more orphans in our country,” said Vasyukevich. “During the military operation, young people who could bring great benefit to our country die and become disabled.”
He added, “We demand the immediate withdrawal of the troops of the Russian Federation.”
Called a ‘Traitor’
The incident, which has been described as a “provocation” by Russian state-run media, reportedly prompted a backlash from the region’s governor, Oleg Kozhemyako, who called the official a “traitor.”
In response, the governor accused Vasyukevich of “defaming the Russian army and our defenders who are in the fight against Nazism.”
“A traitor,” he said at the meeting.
The region’s legislative assembly then escorted Vasyukevich and his colleague, Gennady Shulga, from the meeting. They were both denied the right to vote at the session, reported independent Russian language news outlet MediaZona.
The head of Russia’s Communist Party faction also vowed to take “tough action” against Vasyukevich and Shulga.
Their words “discredit the honor” of the party, Anatoly Dolgachev said.
This “absolute demarche is not coordinated with the faction,” he added.
Vsevolod Romanov, chairman of the Legislative Assembly committee on regulations and deputy ethics, said Vasyukevich made a statement “that we cannot support.”
Vasyukevich and Shulga “grossly violated the regulations, deviating from the issues of discussing the agenda,” he said.
“We do not support his position. And I am sure that all deputies do not support this position. We were extremely surprised,” Romanov added.
It comes three months into Putin’s war against Ukraine, and weeks after Russia’s parliament passed legislation imposing a prison sentence of up to 15 years for intentionally spreading “fake” news about Russia’s military.
Russia has put the law into practice to crack down against those who speak ill of Putin’s war, in a worsening of freedom of speech in the country.
Newsweek has contacted Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Legislative Assembly of the Primorsky region for comment.