Russian Politicians Call to Change Ukraine War Focus, Eliminate Zelensky

Russian lawmakers are calling for Vladimir Putin's "special military operation" in Ukraine to shift focus so its main goal becomes the "elimination" of President Volodymyr Zelensky and his administration.

Two deputies in Russia's State Duma—Sergei Mironov and Mikhail Sheremet—pushed for the change in separate remarks this week.

In a video circulating on social media on Wednesday, Mironov said: "The terrorist acts continue. Darya Dugina has been killed, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is being shelled. It looks like the very same special military operation may spill over into a counter-terrorist operation."

Mironov, who is also head of the political party A Just Russia, added that one of the main goals of a counter-terrorist mission was "the physical elimination of gang leaders" and described Zelensky as "the leader of the Nazi state and the main terrorist."

Russian President Vladimir Putin
President Vladimir Putin of Russia attends a meeting via video conference call, at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on August 24. On February 24, he announced a “special military operation” in Ukraine. MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images

Newsweek has been unable to verify when or where the video was filmed. However, on August 25, state-run news outlet RIA Novosti reported that Mironov had said a shift in the status of Putin's war would help the Russian leader achieve one of his goals.

"One of the goals set by the president, the de-Nazification of Ukraine, will not be achieved without the liquidation of the criminal terrorist regime of Zelensky," Mironov said, following an unscheduled meeting of the State Duma.

Sheremet, who was born in the annexed region of Crimea, also proposed that Putin's operation in Ukraine should focus on "counter-terrorism."

In an interview with RIA Novosti on Wednesday, Sheremet said Ukraine had "become a stronghold and hotbed of international terrorism."

The Duma deputy accused Kyiv of "destroying" its own population, shelling peaceful cities and the Zaporizhzhia plant. He described these strikes and "the attempts of aggression against neighboring states" as criminal.

"Therefore, I believe that the nature of the special military operation in Ukraine should be changed. This is no longer just a special, but a counter-terrorist operation," Sheremet said, adding that Kyiv posed a threat to "the entire civilized world."

On February 24, Putin announced that he was launching the "special military operation" in order to protect people who had been subjected to "humiliation and genocide" by the Kyiv regime.

The Russian president said Zelensky's government was targeting people in Ukraine's Donbas region.

"We will seek to demilitarize and de-Nazify Ukraine, as well as bring to trial those who perpetrated numerous bloody crimes against civilians, including against citizens of the Russian Federation," Putin said in his speech.

Putin and other Russian officials have repeatedly suggested that Ukraine is led by "neo-Nazis," although Zelensky himself is Jewish and had family members who were killed in the Holocaust.

Military experts believe Putin's ultimate goal is to seize the Donbas in full, and to capture other regions of strategic importance, including Kherson, where a Ukrainian counteroffensive is underway.

Malcolm Chalmers, deputy director general of the Royal United Services Institute in London, told Newsweek in June that he believed Ukraine might reverse some of Russia's territorial gains, such as Mariupol and Kherson.

"It's entirely possible that many of the territorial gains the Russians have made will be reversed," said Chalmers.

Newsweek has reached out to Ukrainian authorities and the Russian foreign affairs ministry for comment.