Members of Russia’s National Guard, Rosgvardia, have been officially sacked after they ‘refused’ their assignment to take part in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s internationally condemned military campaign against Ukraine.
Rosgvardia has previously been described as Putin’s “private army”, but a large number of national guardsmen have been fired after rejecting orders to fight in Ukraine. A military court in the southern Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria ruled on Wednesday that the sacking of 115 servicemen was justified after appealing the decision, Moscow time reported citing Agence France Presse.
The court ruling determined that the troops had “arbitrarily” made their decision by “refusing to carry out an official mission”, The Guardian reported Friday. The troops, a separate national force from the Russian military, reportedly chose to return to their base in Russia instead.
Although Russians appear to be largely supportive of Putin’s actions targeting their Eastern European neighbour, there have been signs of discontent and opposition since the full-scale invasion began in February. At the start of the war, thousands of anti-war protesters were arrested by Russian authorities across the country. Some lawmakers and members of the Russian elite have also publicly opposed the assault on Ukraine.
Earlier this week, Russian media reported that during a meeting of the Legislative Assembly of the Primorsky Krai of Russia in the far east of the country, a member of the country’s Communist Party faction, Leonid Vasyukevich, called Putin to end the months-long war and withdraw his troops from the Eastern European nation.
“We understand that if our country does not stop the military operation, there will be even more orphans in our country,” Vasyukevich reportedly said. “During the military operation, young people who could bring great benefit to our country die and become disabled. We demand the immediate withdrawal of troops from the Russian Federation.”
In response, the local governor, Oleg Kozhemyako, allegedly accused Vasyukevich of “defaming the Russian army and our defenders who fight against Nazism”. Kozhemyako called the communist politician a “traitor”.
Vasyukevich and a colleague, Gennady Shulga, were then reportedly escorted out of the meeting. Furthermore, they would have been deprived of the right to vote during the session.
Putin’s assault on Ukraine provoked a swift international reaction as soon as it began. The vast majority of members of the United Nations General Assembly voted to condemn the invasion on March 2. Only four countries – Belarus, Eritrea, North Korea and Syria – voted with Moscow against the widely supported resolution.
US and NATO allies quickly implemented substantial financial sanctions targeting the Russian economy, Moscow’s elite and Putin himself. They have further provided billions of dollars in humanitarian and military aid to Kyiv forces, which have so far largely propelled Russia’s westward advance.
Newsweek contacted the Russian Foreign Ministry for comments.