Local politicians team up to counter Russian President Vladimir Putin



CNN

Russia’s military failures in its war with Ukraine have drawn new opposition to President Vladimir Putin, according to two local politicians who have taken a stand against him.

The lack of a quick victory, the inability to take Kyiv, and now the successful counterattacks by Ukraine, while Russia lost so much troops and so much equipment, generated the anger and resentment that Putin’s opponents are trying to harness.

There comes a point where both liberal groups of people and pro-war groups can have the same goal. “The goal could be for Putin to resign,” said Dmitry Balyoga, a local politician in Putin’s hometown of St Petersburg, who has called for the president’s impeachment.

While liberals like him opposed the invasion of Ukraine on humanitarian and legal grounds, Palyoga told CNN he now saw an opportunity to garner more support.

“We wanted to target some people who supported Putin before and now feel betrayed,” he said.

The Russian army is now destroyed. Therefore, we lose people, we lose weapons, we lose our ability to defend. …even Russian propaganda can’t hide it [the] The Russian army is being defeated in Ukraine.”

Criticizing the Kremlin can be a tough request in Putin’s Russia.

His most vocal critic, the opposition leader Alexei Navalny, first poisoned and then imprisoned. Another politician The opponent, Boris Nemtsov, was shot in the back by the killers, who did not reveal who sent them. Writer and politician Vladimir Kara-Murza sits in prison after speaking out against the Ukrainian invasion, a victim of the Kremlin that tightened its grip on free speech after launching what Russia calls a “special military operation” rather than a war.

Palyuga said Putin’s latest critics are very keen to stick to the letter of the law.

Ksenia Thurstrom, a mayor or alderman in Saint Petersburg also, agreed with this approach.

“One of the things that [a] The mayor could do is make that public statement,” she told CNN. “We don’t really have the authority or the power to do anything — even on a local level, we are vehemently opposed by Yedenaya Russia.” [Putin’s United Russia party]. Even simple initiatives like bike lanes, for example, are against us.

“None of my initiatives have ever been accepted. But I can make public statements and that’s what I did.”

Ksenia Thurstrom is now in Finland.  She said she would be more afraid if she was still in Russia.

She said Thurstrom distributed her own version of the yoga petition to fellow lawmakers and now has dozens of signatures.

She said that the problems were not only in Ukraine with the military, but also had an impact inside Russia.

The Russians have become poor, they are not welcome anywhere. Then there are a few facilities and supplies.”

Now people will be poorer and more miserable. And I don’t know what the future could be for the isolated country.”

Thurstrom knows from personal experience that Putin still enjoys a great deal of support. She said her mother believed the Kremlin’s propaganda and she did Living in a “parallel reality where Putin is making Russia great again.”

“She believes in the Nazis in Ukraine,” she said of her mother. “She believes in it [the] The West wants damage to Russia because [the] The West needs Russian resources, [that the] The West does not want Russia to be strong.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is here to take part in a naval parade in Saint Petersburg in July, said that Russia is participating

Thurstrom said she felt Putin was irrational but still hoped he would agree or be persuaded to leave power.

She said she was happy to take a public role against Putin’s stay in power, in part because she has already left Russia. Thurstrom is now safely in Finland, which with Sweden completed talks to join NATO after the invasion of Ukraine.

Palyoga has never left Russia and admits that he takes some risks to speak out. He was already charged with defaming the authorities under a law passed in March, but the court’s decision to only fine him about $700 made him feel better.

Maybe we are just very young politicians in Russia. So maybe that’s why we’re not worried about getting poisoned or something.

However, the lack of a serious reaction even to the convictions of low-ranking public servants is unusual, although the Kremlin has warned that the line between acceptable debate and illegal criticism is “very thin”.

While Balyoga has no expectation that national politicians within the State Duma, the Russian parliament controlled by Putin, will embrace his cause, he is already claiming some success.

Putin's United Russia party holds power in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament.

“We wanted to show people that they are not alone, that there are other people and even council members who are against this military operation and against Putin and we want to unite people and give them some hope,” he said.

Since parliament first called for Putin’s impeachment, Palyoga said he has received many letters of support with people who have pledged financial fines and even offered to hide him if necessary.

But what he didn’t get was the expected torrent of hate.

“I only got two letters where people accused me of some bad things,” he said, even though news of what he did had spread.

“Two messages are very little hate and I have a lot of support. I actually didn’t expect it to happen like this.”

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