Since Monday, September 12, a petition has been circulating in Russia for President Vladimir Putin to resign. It has been signed by dozens of local politicians. France 24 spoke with Ksenia Torstrem, an elected official in Saint Petersburg and one of the promoters of this initiative.
It is a short text that, in the context of the Russian difficulties on the Ukrainian front, has had the effect of a small political bomb. The petition, published on Monday September 12 and initially signed by 19 Russian local elected officials, invites President Vladimir Putin to resign.
“We, the municipal deputies of Russia, believe that the actions of President Vladimir Putin are damaging the future of the country and its citizens. We demand his resignation from the post of President of the Russian Federation,” it reads. the petitionwhich has been widely disseminated on social media and picked up by various media outlets.
A media exposure that can surprise. The day after its publication, the text was only signed by 65 local politicians. But this initiative comes under a very particular context that gives this document a special resonance.
The war in Ukraine, or the “special military operation” as Moscow calls it, is not going as the Kremlin had planned. For this reason, criticism is beginning to be heard even in Russia.
Before this resignation request, other elected officials from a district of St. Petersburg – the hometown of Vladimir Putin – had even sent a letter to the Duma on September 7, calling for the president to be removed and tried for “treason”.
France 24 spoke with Ksenia Torstrem, an elected official from St. Petersburg and one of the initiators of the petition for the resignation of Vladimir Putin on September 12.
France 24: Why have you now launched this petition against Vladimir Putin?
Ksenia Torstrem: We wanted to express our support for our friends in the Smolninskoye district of St. Petersburg whose elected officials have called for Vladimir Putin to be tried for treason.
We admire their courage and we can only regret the problems they now have with the police, who accuse them of discrediting the Armed Forces.
We consulted local elected officials to find out what we could do to express our solidarity. And in the current context it is not easy, without risking having problems with the authorities.
So we thought a petition was the safest way. Until now, in Russia it is not prohibited by law to sign a petition.
France 24: Is not a request for the resignation of Vladimir Putin dangerous in itself?
K.T.: There is nothing that prohibits it. After all, you never know what to expect from the Russian government right now. That is why I was chosen as the petitioners’ spokesperson, because I left Russia for Finland after the fighting started. I risk less than other colleagues who have decided to stay.
But it is clear that even signing such a petition is scary. When we started spreading the text on Telegram asking other elected representatives to sign, several of them admitted that they were afraid to do so, if only because they had children. Others refused because they felt there was no point in risking so much for a request that they thought it would have no effect.
France 24: What is your objective, do you really think that Vladimir Putin could decide to resign?
K.T.: Why not? The resignation would be a way for Vladimir Putin to leave power peacefully.
And such a request is important in the current propaganda context. Everything possible is being done to make it appear that the government’s policy is not being criticized. In fact, there are millions of Russians who disagree, and a petition like this is one way of letting them know that they are not alone.
Perhaps there are also some people in the elite who want to start impeachment proceedings against Vladimir Putin. We also want to show them that they have support locally.
France 24: Do you think that with about 60 signatures your petition is a success?
K.T.: Not bad. Of course, when compared to other requests that at the beginning of the fighting had gathered many more signatures to oppose the conflict, may seem low.
But we have received signatures from local elected officials from all over the country, whether in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Irkutsk or Vladivostok.
France 24: The text of your petition is very brief and does not go into detail about the grievances against Vladimir Putin. What exactly does he reproach you for?
K.T.: I really don’t know… I’m not sure I can answer this question without getting into trouble.
But I have been opposing Vladimir Putin for a long time and denouncing corruption in the country. And our petition is also support for the authors of the letter calling for Vladimir Putin to be tried. And they have motivated the action of him…
*The authors of the letter mention four main criticisms against Vladimir Putin: the unnecessary destruction of combat units, the death of young Russian citizens who could easily have contributed to the growth of the economy, the economic cost of this war for Russia and the fact that, as a result of the conflict, Ukraine received modern weapons from NATO while one of the official objectives of Russia was the demilitarization of the country.
**This text was adapted from its original in French