A former Russian deputy prime minister who spoke out against the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine has quit as chair of a prestigious foundation after a lawmaker accused him of a “national betrayal” and demanded his dismissal.
Arkady Dvorkovich, deputy prime minister from 2012 to 2018, became one of Russia’s most senior establishment figures to question the war when he told U.S. media this week that his thoughts were with Ukrainian civilians.
His comments prompted a senior ruling party lawmaker to demand that he be fired and to accuse him of being part of a “fifth column” undermining Russia.
The 49-year-old had been chairman since 2018 of the Skolkovo Foundation, an innovation and technology hub on the outskirts of Moscow that brands itself as a kind of Russian Silicon Valley.
On Friday, the Skolkovo Foundation said in a statement that Dvorkovich had decided to step down. He remains president of the International Chess Federation (FIDE).
Igor Shuvalov, chairman of the foundation’s board of directors, said Dvorkovich had resigned, saying that he could no longer combine his duties at Skolkovo with his responsibilities at FIDE under the current circumstances.
Thousands of people have been detained for protesting against Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, which officials in Moscow describe as a “special military operation” to demilitarise and “de-nazify” its former Soviet neighbour.
President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday delivered a stark warning to people he called “traitors” in Russia who he said the West wanted to use as a fifth column to destroy the country.
After his comments to Western media, Dvorkovich said in a statement on Skolkovo’s website that he was “sincerely proud of the courage of our (Russian) soldiers” and that Russia had been targeted by “harsh and senseless sanctions”.
But the following day, Andrei Turchak, a lawmaker from the ruling United Russia party, called for his sacking.
“He has made his choice,” Turchak said. “This is nothing but the very national betrayal, the behaviour of the fifth column, which the president spoke about today.”