MOSCOW: More than 30 Russian municipal deputies have signed a petition calling for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s resignation.
The petition, posted by Xenia Torstrem, a deputy in St. Petersburg’s Semyonovsky District, was originally signed by 19 officials.
“We, the municipal deputies of Russia, believe that the actions of President Vladimir Putin harm the future of Russia and its citizens,” a translation of the petition reads. “We demand the resignation of Vladimir Putin from the post of President of the Russian Federation!”
The petition comes as the Ukrainian military pursues a counteroffensive, quickly reclaiming territory and pushing Russian troops back to the northeastern border in some places.
The push’s initial gains have provoked some criticisms of Putin inside the country, a rare rebuke of Russia’s longtime leader who over the years has sought to stifle opposition.
The petition was signed primarily by municipal deputies serving in Moscow and St. Petersburg, although the signatories also include officials from cities like Samara and Yakutsk.
It comes after Russia over the weekend held the country’s first election since the start of the war. Voters cast ballots to elect more than 31,000 officials nationwide, although the Kremlin’s opposition has alleged fraud and vote-rigging.
The petition potentially places the municipal deputies at risk, given the Kremlin’s law criminalizing the publishing of “fake news” about the war, which Putin refers to as a “special military operation.”
Offenders face up to 15 years in jail, and Russian officials have punished dissidents since the troops invaded Ukraine in February.
But as Russia faces new losses from the Ukrainian counteroffensive, some Russian military bloggers and patriotic commentators have criticized the Kremlin for failing to take stronger action.
“People who convinced President Putin that the operation will be fast and effective … these people really set up all of us,” former Russian parliament member Boris Nadezhdin said on the state-owned NTV station.
The counteroffensive has also lifted Ukrainian morale, but it remains unclear if the operation will mark a turning point in the conflict.
“The path to victory is a difficult one,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his daily address on Sunday.
“But we are sure: you are capable of it,” he continued. “You will reach our border, all its sections. You will see our frontiers and the enemies’ backs. You will see the shining of the eyes of our people and of the occupiers’ heels. They will call it ‘goodwill gestures.’ We’ll call it a victory.”