Members of Russia’s National Guard, Rosgvardia, have been officially sacked after “refusing” their assignments to participate in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s internationally condemned military campaign against Ukraine.
The Rosgvardia have previously been described as Putin’s “private army,” but a large group of national guards’ members were fired after they rejected orders to fight in Ukraine. A military court in Russia’s southern republic of Kabardino-Balkaria ruled Wednesday that the sacking of 115 servicemembers was justified after they appealed the decision, The Moscow Times reported citing Agence France Press.
The court decision determined that the troops “arbitrarily” made their decision by “refusing to perform an official assignment,” The Guardian reported Friday. The troops, a domestic force separate 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 neighbor, there have been signs of discontent and opposition since the outset of the full-scale invasion on February. In the early days of the war, thousands of anti-war protesters were arrested by Russian authorities across the country. Some lawmakers and members of the Russian elite publicly opposed the assault on Ukraine as well.
Earlier this week, Russian media reported that during a meeting of the Legislative Assembly of Russia’s Primorsky Krai in the far east of the country, a member of the nation’s Communist Party faction, Leonid Vasyukevich, appealed to Putin to stop the months-long war and to 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 the troops of the Russian Federation.”
In response, the local governor, Oleg Kozhemyako, reportedly accused Vasyukevich of “defaming the Russian army and our defenders who are in the 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 were reportedly denied the right to vote during the session.
Putin’s assault on Ukraine drew swift international backlash as soon as it began. The vast majority of United Nations General Assembly members voted to condemn the invasion on March 2. Just four nations — Belarus, Eritrea, North Korea and Syria — voted along with Moscow against the widely supported resolution.
The US and NATO allies quickly implemented substantial financial sanctions targeting the Russian economy, Moscow elite and Putin himself. They have additionally provided billions of dollars of humanitarian and military aid to Kyiv’s forces, which have thus far largely propelled Russia’s westward advance.
Newsweek reached out to the Russian foreign ministry for comment.