Russian politician flees after blasting ‘petty’ Putin for ‘ruining country’

A Russian politician has admitted that he has fled the country for his own safety after he labelled Vladimir Putin a "petty dictator" who has "impoverished" the state with his war in Ukraine.

Sergei Zakharov, 55, quit his job as a regional MP in Perm, in the Urals, for the Putin-loyal United Russia party and went to Germany – the homeland of his wife Sarah.

Zakharov said if he stayed in Russia he could have faced jail time under Putin's harsh laws used to quell dissent, like so many opposition politicians have faced.

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“I absolutely do not agree with today's policy of the state and do not intend to participate in it. I quit,” he said, slamming the “hostilities, murders and repressions” under Putin.

"He could have become a great president of a great state,” he said. “But he will remain in history a petty dictator who has impoverished his country."

He has been thrown out of United Russia and will be disowned this week as a member of the legislature.

"I have written a letter of resignation as an MP,” he said.

“I came into politics consciously, based on my inner convictions and the belief that one should not sit idly by, but try to change the lives of ordinary people for the better….

“An MP must defend the interests of all people who elected him, regardless of their political views.”

He believed in peace not war.

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“I’m not going to change my beliefs because of someone’s whim. So I am not ashamed to look in the mirror in the morning.”

He had been a regional MP for seven years and had not been expected to resign, he said.

In August, Evgeny Roizman, the former mayor of Ekaterinburg, the largest city in the Urals region, was arrested on charges of “discrediting Russia’s armed forces”, the interior ministry said.

Courts across Russia have willingly handed out prison terms to critics of Putin's "special military operation".

Ilya Yashin was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison on charges of discrediting the military, while Vladimir Kara-Murza was jailed on the same charges.

Yashin was tried under a law introduced after Russia launched its invasion.

Murza, whose case is ongoing, has denied several charges including treason and spreading false information about the Russian Army.

The post-invasion laws enacted by the Kremlin state that "discrediting" the Army can currently be punished by up to five years in jail, while deliberately spreading false information about it can attract a 15-year sentence.

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