Kremlin mutiny grows in Russia as more urge Putin to resign

A growing number of rebels are calling for Vladimir Putin to go over the war in Ukraine. Human rights lawyer Daniil Berman has slammed the Russian tyrant’s so-called “special military operation”, describing it as a “hot war” with a sovereign state “which must be stopped”. 

In an open letter to Putin, Mr Berman called for the Russian leader, the country’s parliament and the Government to be thrown out.

He wrote: “I believe that the ‘special military operation’… is a hot war with the sovereign state of Ukraine which must be stopped.”

Mr Berman called for Russian troops to be withdrawn from Ukraine and the political leadership in Moscow to be dismissed.

The human rights lawyer warned: “Further escalation of this military conflict could lead to an acute political crisis within the country.

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“Subsequently to Civil War, the collapse of Russia, the loss of its territories, the impoverishment of its population and the loss of their national identity.”

He added: “Any appeals and actions from any person to continue this war, including ‘attacking strikes on decision-making centres in Ukraine’, on ‘critical infrastructure facilities’, the use of nuclear weapons – including low-yield ones – and any similar statements I consider to be anti-people and endangering the existence of humanity as a species.”

Mr Berman posted his phone number if the authorities wanted to arrest him.

It comes after a group of deputies from the Smolninskoye local council appealed to the State Duma to bring charges of state treason against Putin and to strip him of power.

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At least 65 politicians from St Petersburg, Moscow and other areas have signed a petition calling for Putin to resign.

While understood to pose no immediate threat to Putin’s grip on power, the moves mark rare expressions of dissent by elected representatives.

Russians risk heavy prison sentences for discrediting the armed forces or spreading deliberately false information about them under the country’s law.

Council member Dmitry Palyuga said a court fined him £690 (47,000 roubles) for “discrediting” the authorities by calling for Putin’s removal.

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Mr Palyuga said he expected the numbers of dissenters to rise after Ukraine’s blistering counter-offensive in which Ukrainian troops drove Russian forces out of dozens of towns and recaptured a large swathe of territory.

He said: “Many people who liked Putin are starting to feel betrayed. I think the more successfully the Ukrainian army operates, the more such people will become.”

Meanwhile, Putin on Thursday said he understood his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping had questions and concerns about the situation in Ukraine but praised China’s leader for what he said was a “balanced” position on the conflict.

Russia’s war has killed tens of thousands of people and sparked soaring food and energy prices amid the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.

At their first face-to-face meeting since the war, Mr Xi said he was very happy to meet his “old friend” again after Putin said US attempts to create a unipolar world would fail.

Putin told Mr Xi: “We highly value the balanced position of our Chinese friends when it comes to the Ukraine crisis.

“We understand your questions and concern about this. During today’s meeting, we will of course explain our position, we will explain in detail our position on this issue, although we have talked about this before.”

Beijing has been unsettled by the impact on the global economy of Russia’s war and has been careful not to give material support to Moscow which could trigger Western sanctions on China’s economy.

Mr Xi stayed away from a dinner attended by 11 heads of states at the regional security summit in line with his delegation’s Covid policy.

He was also absent from group photographs when the leaders, including Putin and Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan, went for dinner.

China’s leader and Putin are due to address fellow leaders at the summit in Uzbekistan today (September 16).

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