Russian Officials Who Demanded Putin End War Expelled From Communist Party

Two Russian lawmakers who called on President Vladimir Putin to end the war against Ukraine have been expelled from the Communist Party.

Leonid Vasyukevich and Gennady Shulga were branded traitors after their comments last Friday during a meeting of the legislative assembly of the Primorsky region in far eastern Russia.

Vasyukevich appealed to Putin to stop the war and withdraw his troops from the country. He said he was also speaking on behalf of three Communist Party colleagues: Shulga, Natalya Kochugova and Aleksandr Sustov.

"We understand that if our country does not stop the military operation, there will be even more orphans in our country," Vasyukevich told the meeting, in a rare display of dissent against the so-called "special military operation" that began in February.

"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."

The incident caused a commotion, with the region's governor, Oleg Kozhemyako, branding Vasyukevich a "traitor."

Vasyukevich and Shulga were escorted from the meeting and denied the right to vote at the session, according to independent Russian language news outlet MediaZona.

The head of the Primorsky assembly's Communist Party faction, Anatoly Dolgachev, has now told state-run newspaper Kommersant that Vasyukevich and Shulga have been expelled for "discrediting the party."

Russian President Vladimir Putin
President Vladimir Putin, in Moscow on October 29, 2014. He has presented the war in Ukraine as a "special military operation" to prevent a "genocide" in Luhansk and Donetsk. Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images

'Political Corpses'

Dolgachev said colleagues voted unanimously to kick the pair out of the party. "They have no place in our ranks … they are now non-handshake, political corpses for us," he said.

He added that Russia's Communist Party officially "supports the actions of the armed forces to de-Nazify Ukraine," echoing the Kremlin's rhetoric that the "special military operation" seeks to rescue residents of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics from a "genocide."

Vasyukevich and Shulga "betrayed their voters," said Dolgachev.

Last Friday, Dolgachev had pledged to take "tough action" against the pair, saying their words "discredit the honor" of the party.

Kochugova and Sustov, the other two lawmakers who Vasyukevich said were also calling for an end to the war, denied having done so shortly after he addressed the meeting.

Vsevolod Romanov, chairman of the Primorsky legislative assembly's committee on regulations and deputies' ethics, said Vasyukevich had made a statement "that we cannot support."

He and Shulga had "grossly violated the regulations, deviating from the issues of discussing the agenda," Romanov added.

Newsweek has reached out to Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the legislative assembly of the Primorsky region for comment.