Sergei Medvedev, a local council member in the Russian city of Perm, has fled to neighboring Georgia after backlash and anonymous threats following an online post in which he criticized President Vladimir Putin as well as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In a post he shared on the Russian social media network Vkontakte on December 31, Medvedev said: “Russia, wake up! They’re killing you! It’s horrible to realize that the monster who’s behind this is running for election again.”

He added: “I want the war to end! I want to see Russia free from Putin’s shackles.”

The post resulted in his expulsion from the Communist party last week after the Perm city council and law enforcement agencies requested that the party “give a legal assessment” of Medvedev’s social media posts criticizing the war. 

The leader of the Communist Party in Perm region, Kseniya Aytakova, said “let the competent authorities continue their work,” referring to the police. Her party also released a lengthy statement affirming its support for the war in Ukraine.

From exile, Medvedev told POLITICO: “I just couldn’t bear it anymore. It’s impossible to ignore what’s happening. People are smiling, politicians are offering good wishes. But what’s the point? The country is in decline, yet there are celebrations everywhere.”

He added: “The whole world looks at us as if we’re insane. We’re becoming a pariah nation. Every sane person understands this.”

Medvedev said he believed many people in Russia feel the same way, but have been silenced by fear. “It’s like in Nazi Germany. How could one speak out against Hitler there?”

Russia’s crackdown on critics has intensified since Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Recent cases include the unlawful imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and the expulsion of foreign journalists including Eva Hartog, a POLITICO reporter, last August.

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