Petersburg and Moscow Deputies Demand Putin’s Resignation

Foreign Policy Brief #156 | By: Yelena Korshunov | November 14, 2022

Header photo taken from: Radio Free Europe




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In September 2022, the deputies of the St. Petersburg municipal district Smolninskoye turned to the State Duma (Congress) with a proposal to dismiss president Vladimir Putin and additionally accuse him of treason for the violent war in Ukraine. Within a week, the deputies were accused of “discrediting the army” and fined, and the court launched a procedure for the dissolution of the municipal council.

An open municipal meeting of the council of the Smolninsky district in St. Petersburg, at which the deputies adopted an appeal to the President of Russia on the need to stop the war in Ukraine. March 2, 2022.

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Meantime millions of people had already left Ukraine, and the deaths of thousands of Ukrainian civilians — including hundreds of children — had already been documented. “I set out these statistics in a letter,” says one of the initiators of the appeal, municipal deputy Nikita Yuferev in his interview to Russian oppositionist portal Meduza, “and sent it to Putin, demanding that he give the order to end the “military operation” for humanitarian reasons. In a while, I received a response from the presidential administration stating “Your proposal has been reviewed. We inform you that a special military operation is underway for demilitarization and denazification.”

“It is important to clarify that we understand that our appeals are not read, at best they are watched by assistants or advisers”, says Mr. Yuferev. “We understand that this will not have any effect on them, they will not burst into tears and will not end the “special military operation”, but we are carrying out these actions so that people who are in Russia and who do not agree [with the authorities] know that they are not alone. Now everyone is surrounded by an information bubble of state propaganda, which convinces them that everyone is for Putin. 

We are trying to show people that they are not alone and that there is a whole municipal government that opposes the current government and its policies. In my opinion, the main change has to happen in people’s minds. After we voted for a letter with an appeal to the State Duma to dismiss the president, on the night of September 8th I received an SMS [text message] that they were waiting for me at the police department. In the morning we went there with a lawyer to give explanations. The following week, we were all convicted of “discrediting” and ordered to pay a fine. But the main effect of this letter has already happened: thousands of people write to us about how they support us.”

“Moreover, the very next day after our meeting,” continuous Yuferev, “ the council of deputies of the Lomonosovsky municipality in Moscow made a similar statement. They wrote a beautiful and elegant letter where they explained to Putin himself why he does not suit Russia and why his methods are outdated and do not work. Following this, my Moscow colleague Ksenia Torstrem launched a petition for municipal deputies from all over Russia demanding that Putin resign. 

As far as I know, deputies from 35 municipalities have already signed it. In total, she has about 70 verified signatures of municipal deputies. Of course, we may be prosecuted criminally, there is such a fear. Last year, on August 4, 2021, an explosive device detonated at our meeting, injuring four deputies. Therefore, a fine, in my opinion, is not the worst thing that can happen. It is clear that all this is a fight against windmills, but the deputies are determined. We cannot change everything in Russia, but we must do something to the best of our ability.”


Policy Analysis

Wagner founder Yevgeniy Prigozhin with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin.

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I hope these brave people and their families are safe and not thrown into prison as were many others who dared to protest against the unleashed war. Even if at a first glance it looks like their voices are a “fight against windmills”, the estaphet seems to be passed up high, to the Russia’s president’s surroundings.

 A couple of media sources reported that a significant figure in Putin’s court, Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, privately confronted the Russian president in recent weeks. The British intelligence previously stated that Putin’s entourage, particularly Prigozhin, is increasingly criticizing the Russian military command and provoking discussions about civil war.

“Yevgeny Prigozhin and social networks associated with Wagner are increasingly talking about the ineffectiveness of traditional Russian military institutions and social problems, which can indirectly undermine the power of the Kremlin,” said experts of the Institute for the Study of War. 

And that is what Prigozhin recently posted on the Vkontakte (a Russian social media platform) speaking about Ukrainian president Volodimir Zelensky, “Although he is the president of a country that’s hostile to Russia right now, Zelensky is a strong, confident, pragmatic and nice guy.”

Don’t underestimate him,” he wrote later. In the perspective of hundreds of thousands of Russians leaving the country as a result of the “partial” mobilization call, the retreat of Russian troops in Ukraine, protests on the streets, and disagreement in the highest echelons of power, Vladimir Putin’s authority started weakening and his seemingly sturdy throne showed some cracks.

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