Natalya Komarova, a member of president Vladimir Putin’s governing United Russia party and the governor of Russian Khanty-Masiysk region, on Saturday criticised the conflict that has stretched to nearly 600 days during a meeting with residents of the Siberian city of Nizhnevartovsk.
Ms Komarova was confronted by the wife of a mobilised Russian man fighting in Ukraine who had asked why her husband was not provided with the necessary equipment to fight.
“Are you asking me (why your husband does not have equipment) knowing that I’m the governor and not the minister of defence?” the official said.
She added: “As a whole, we did not prepare for this war. We don’t need it. We were building a completely different world, so in this regard, there will certainly be some inconsistencies and unresolved issues,” according to a video of the event posted on social media.
The comments, captured on video, were circulated widely online and prompted pro-war activists to condemn Ms Komarova for “discrediting Russia’s armed forces”.
A letter has been sent to Russia’s minister of internal affairs by the director of a Siberian non-profit organisation, Yuri Ryabtsev, asking the ministry to further investigate Ms Komarova’s comments, reported Russian news outlet Sibir.Realii, stating that its journalists had seen the letter.
An activist has also filed a report with the local police, demanding Ms Komarova be held accountable under Russia’s Code of Administrative Offences for “discrediting” the army, the news outlet reported.
The Russian politician has not issued any fresh remarks on the issue.
Russia approved a law last year making it illegal to describe the conflict in Ukraine as a “war” or an “invasion” by Russia. Mr Putin called it a “special military operation” when he ordered the attack on Ukraine in February last year, and the law has been used to compel Russian media, businesses and citizens to follow suit, as well as to penalise critics of the war.
The legislation also outlaws “disparaging” the military and the spread of "false information" about Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Several critics of the war have already been handed fines or jail terms under the law, while experts say it has made it increasingly difficult to gauge levels of public support for the invasion.
Sasha Skochilenko, an artist and musician with serious health issues, was arrested in April last year for replacing supermarket price tags with antiwar slogans, charged with spreading false information about the military.
Former FSB agent and battlefield commander Igor Girkin, known as a prominent Russian hardline nationalist, was detained on charges of extremism in July this year after he accused Mr Putin of weakness and indecision in Ukraine.
Russia media have been extensively covering the Ukraine conflict yet at the same time prohibited from calling it a “war”, while protesters using that word on placards are hit with steep fines. Independent news sites have been blocked, as were Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. A prominent radio station has been taken off the air, and the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, led by 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitry Muratov, has also lost its licence.
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