Russian politician calls for Putin to be prosecuted over Ukraine 'war' comment

Offensive is officially a special military operation

Russian President Vladimir Putin's reference to a war in Ukraine prompted a reaction from Saint Petersburg, his home city. Reuters
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An opposition politician in Vladimir Putin’s home city of Saint Petersburg has called for legal action against the Russian president for referring to the conflict in Ukraine as a “war”.

Mr Putin told reporters on Thursday that Russia wants to “end this war” as soon as possible, referring to the fighting in Ukraine.

Moscow has officially referred to Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February as a special military operation.

Mr Putin signed laws in March that prescribe fines and jail terms for discrediting or spreading “deliberately false information” about the armed forces, putting people at risk of prosecution if they call the war by its name.

“Vladimir Putin called the war a war but there was no decree to end the special military operation and no war was declared … I sent an appeal to the authorities so Putin can see justice for spreading 'fake news' about the army,” Nikita Yuferev, a councillor in Saint Petersburg, said on social media.

He posted images showing complaints addressed to Russia's prosecutor-general and interior minister.

Mr Yuferev said he knew his legal challenge would go nowhere, but he had filed it to expose the “mendacity” of the system.

“It's important for me to do this to draw attention to the contradiction and the injustice of these laws that he [Mr Putin] adopts and signs but which he himself doesn't observe,” he told Reuters.

“I think the more we talk about this, the more people will doubt his honesty, his infallibility, and the less support he will have.”

A court in Moscow this month sentenced opposition politician Ilya Yashin to eight-and-a-half-years in prison for spreading false information about Russia's offensive in Ukraine, the highest-profile conviction under the new legislation.

Another Moscow councillor, Alexei Gorinov, was sentenced to seven years in prison in July for speaking out against the Ukraine offensive.

Meanwhile, the US State Department responded to Mr Putin’s apparent slip by calling on the Russian president to acknowledge reality and withdraw his troops from Ukraine.

“Since February 24, the United States and rest of the world knew that Putin's special military operation was an unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine. Finally, after 300 days, Putin called the war what it is,” a State Department representative said.

“As a next step in acknowledging reality, we urge him to end this war by withdrawing his forces from Ukraine.”

The State Department said that, whatever Mr Putin's terminology, “Russia's aggression against its sovereign neighbour has resulted in death, destruction and displacement.”

“The people of Ukraine no doubt find little consolation in Putin stating the obvious, nor do the tens of thousands of Russian families whose relatives have been killed fighting Putin's war.”

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Updated: December 24, 2022, 9:26 AM