Moscow strips anti-war deputy off his seat over Ukraine dissent

Yevgeny Stupin was among the signatories of an open letter titled “Communists and Socialists Against Fratricidal War” published in March 2022, shortly after Russian forces launched their full-scale assault on neighbouring Ukraine.

The Moscow city legislature voted unanimously on Wednesday to remove Yevgeny Stupin from his seat as a deputy, stripping the vocal Kremlin critic of his position in retaliation for his anti-war stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Stupin was among the signatories of an open letter titled “Communists and Socialists Against Fratricidal War” published in March 2022, shortly after Russian forces launched their full-scale assault on neighbouring Ukraine. The letter condemned the “ruling capitalist regime” in Moscow for unleashing an “unjustified” war that has caused immense suffering.

“We believe that the Russian species-wide genocide against the Ukrainian people has no justification,” the letter stated, referring to President Vladimir Putin’s false claims that Ukraine’s leadership was committing genocide against Russian speakers.

In the year since signing the letter, Stupin, a member of the Communist Party, has remained an outspoken critic of the war, demanding Putin’s resignation and calling for Russia’s immediate withdrawal from Ukraine.

“This criminal regime has brought nothing but disaster, impoverishment, and international disgrace upon our homeland,” Stupin said in remarks before Wednesday’s vote to remove him. “I make no apologies for my stance against this genocidal war.”

Moscow officials accused Stupin, 53, of violating a law prohibiting deputies from extremist activities. They cited his participation in several anti-war protests, as well as social media posts harshly criticizing Putin and the military campaign.

Kremlin critics condemned the move against Stupin as a further erosion of the limited democracy that remains in Russia. They say Putin has effectively dismantled all substantive opposition since the invasion began.

“Stupin’s ouster shows the regime will not tolerate any dissent whatsoever over its catastrophic decision to go to war,” said Dmitry Muratov, winner of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize and editor of Russia’s leading independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta. The paper was forced to cease publication in Russia last year after being branded as a “foreign agent.”

Despite sweeping efforts to crack down on anti-war voices, occasional demonstrations continue across Russia. On the first anniversary of the invasion in late February, police arrested hundreds of protesters in Moscow and other cities.

The war in Ukraine has become a grim quagmire for Moscow, with no end in sight. Russia currently occupies around one-fifth of Ukraine’s territory, but its forces have been plagued by equipment shortages, poor logistics and flagging morale.

Stupin vowed to continue speaking out against the “criminal” war despite his removal from office.