Russian Officials Demand Putin Resign Amid Ukraine Losses

Russian officials are calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to resign amid mounting losses in his invasion of Ukraine—a rare sign of frustration as the Kremlin cracks down on dissent.

The Russian leader launched the invasion of the Eastern European country more than six months ago on February 24. Russian officials hoped their large military would lead them to a quick victory, but Ukraine met them with a strong defense effort bolstered by aid from its allies including the United States. This has prevented the Kremlin from achieving its major goals.

In recent weeks, Ukraine has gone on the offensive in areas near Kherson and Kharkiv, taking back more than 1,000 miles of formerly occupied territory. The Kharkiv counteroffensive caught Moscow by surprise, and Ukrainian victories forced Russian forces to retreat from key cities such as Izyum over the weekend in which some Russian supporters described as the most "difficult" day of the war.

These losses appear to be leading to increased dissent against Putin. Thirty-five Russian municipal deputies signed a petition demanding him to resign from office due to the "harm" inflicted onto Russia due to the invasion, tweeted Ksenia Tortstrem on Monday, who serves as a municipal deputy in St. Petersburg's Smolninskoye municipal territory.

Russian officials demand Putin resignation
Above, Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in Moscow on Monday. Thirty-five Russian officials are demanding that he resign as losses mount in his invasion of Ukraine. GAVRIIL GRIGOROV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

So far, municipal leaders from several important Russian cities, such as Moscow, have signed onto the demand. Tortstem wrote the petition does not "discredit" anyone, an apparent jab at Russian authorities who have charged critics with discrediting the government.

Russia's Duma passed a law in March banning Russians from spreading "fake" news about the country's armed forces. The law has been used by authorities to crack down on those who have expressed criticism of the war and has made speaking out against the war potentially dangerous.

Still, the group of lawmakers appeared to condemn Putin's action, without specifically mentioning the war, in a short message posted alongside the petition.

"We, the municipal deputies of Russia, believe that the actions of President Vladimir Putin harm the future of Russia and is citizens," the petition reads. "We demand the resignation of Vladimir Putin from the post of President of the Russian Federation!"

The petition is not the first time Smolninskoye officials have been critical of Putin amid the war, but it was signed by leaders from other municipalities including Moscow, home to the Kremlin—suggesting a growing frustration among Russian leaders as losses pile up in Ukraine.

Last week, the Smolninskoye Municipal District's council proposed that Putin should be removed from office "based on the charges of high treason." Nikita Yurefev, another municipal deputy for Smolninskoye in St. Petersburg, wrote the "special military operation" has led to the deaths of Russian soldiers, economic issues, and the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Members of the council were later summoned by police for "discrediting" the Russian government, Yurefev said. Two soldiers were also charged under the law earlier in September.

Newsweek reached out to Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment.