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Local politicians team up to challenge Russian President Vladimir PutinBy Amanda Caroline • September 17, 2022 • 27
Russia's military failures in its war with Ukraine are stirring new opposition to President Vladimir Putin, according to two local politicians who are taking a stand against him.
The lack of a quick victory, the inability to take Kyiv and now the successful counter-offensives by Ukraine while Russia has lost so many troops and so much equipment has generated anger and discontent that Putin's opponents are trying to harness.
"There is a point where both liberal groups of people and pro-war groups of people can have the same goal. The goal can be for Putin to resign," said Dmitry Palyuga, a local politician in St Petersburg, Putin's hometown, who called for the president to be impeached.
While liberals like him had opposed the invasion of Ukraine on humanitarian and legal grounds, Palyuga told CNN he now saw an opening to get more support.
"We wanted to target some people who supported Putin before and now they feel betrayed," he said.
"The Russian army is being destroyed right now. So, we lose people, we lose weapons and we'll lose our ability to defend. ... Even Russian propaganda cannot hide it, that [the] Russian army is being defeated in Ukraine."
His most vocal critic, opposition leader Alexey Navalny, was first poisoned and then imprisoned. Another political opponent, Boris Nemtsov, was shot in the back by hitmen who have not revealed who sent them. Writer and politician Vladimir Kara-Murza sits in prison after speaking against the Ukraine invasion, a victim of the Kremlin further tightening its grip on free speech after the launch of what Russia calls a "special military operation" and not a war.
Palyuga said Putin's newest critics are being very careful to stay within the letter of the law.
Ksenia Thorstrom, a municipal deputy or local councilor also in St. Petersburg, bought into that approach.
"One of the things that [a] municipal deputy can do is making this public statement," she told CNN. "We don't really have authority or power to do anything -- even on a local level, we are very much opposed by the "Yedinaya Rossiya" [Putin's United Russia party]. Even simple initiatives like bicycle lanes, for example, they are opposing us.
"None of my initiatives has ever been accepted. But I can do the public statements and that's what I did."
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