Russian politicians break ranks with Kremlin to condemn Ukraine invasion

Officials say they are ‘devastated’ by Vladimir Putin’s move to wage war on neighbour, as protests and petitions for peace gain momentum. Article by Nataliya Vasilyeva, Russia Correspondent for the Telegraph, Moscow - 26.02.22

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is proving so unpopular that several Russian MPs are withdrawing their support for the Kremlin.

The State Duma, the lower house of Russian parliament, last week voted to recognise the independence of eastern Ukraine’s separatist regions. President Vladimir Putin signed the motion into law on Monday.

Two days later, Russia’s upper house of parliament gave the green light to sending Russian troops “abroad”. However, it was not clear until Thursday morning that Putin had ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Mikhail Matveyev, a member of the State Duma, called on the Kremlin on Saturday to stop the invasion.

“By voting to recognise the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, I voted for peace, not a war. For Russia to become a shield for the Donbas, not for bombing Kyiv,” he said.

Another MP, Communist Oleg Smolin, said on Friday he was “shocked” by the invasion and was sorry for the loss of life.

Their statements came amid a myriad of anti-war petitions from Russian teachers, scientists and doctors.

A famed Soviet photographer and author called on Putin and his entourage to retire in a video clip posted on Novaya Gazeta’s website.

“Why don’t you all have some rest? You did such a great job. You all are pension age. It’s time to retire,” said Kyiv-born 83-year-old Yuri Rost.

Even some of the most Kremlin-friendly pundits began to publicly question the rationale behind Moscow unleashing a war on a sovereign nation.

Andrey Kortunov, director of the Russian International Affairs Council that advises the foreign ministry, told the BBC on Saturday he had not advised Russians officials to launch an invasion and that many in the Russian government were shocked at the decision.

“I would say that many of us in the foreign office were surprised and I would say shocked and I would even say devastated to see what is happening,” he said.

“This is an important red line that was crossed by the Russian leadership and the repercussions are likely to be very significant.”

Russia’s foreign ministry sought to punish some of the country’s most respected journalists for speaking out against the invasion.

Elena Chernenko, a veteran foreign affairs reporter for the Kommersant newspaper who often travelled with Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister, said on Friday she was ejected from his pool for “unprofessionalism”.

Condemnation of the war was spreading across Russian society on Saturday. Architects, doctors and psychiatrists all published their anti-war petitions to add to earlier appeals by representatives of other professions.

Sporadic protests were reported in several Siberian cities, while in Moscow, police sealed off a central square, fearing unrest.

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Demonstrators link arms and raise their voices at an anti-war event in St Petersburg

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