A state television journalist and news moderator in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk has resigned, saying that he could no longer "participate in the madness" of promoting the proposed constitutional amendments that, among other things, could enable Russian President Vladimir Putin to remain in office until 2036.
After seven years with the local branch of the state channel Rossia, Vladimir Zharinov, 46, announced in a post on Facebook that he was quitting, calling the draft amendments and the process by which they are being adopted "a historic crime" that was "beyond my comprehension."
"Throughout my career, I have not had to promote any openly destructive actions by the authorities," Zharinov wrote. "And I don't want to do so now."
"I see that the only way to avoid participating in this madness is to quit," he added. "And, of course, I will not go and vote."
On June 25, a week of voting opened on the massive package of constitutional amendments that would significantly restructure the Russian government and would enable Putin to seek a fifth and sixth term as president.
In a bid to boost turnout, the government is running raffles and carrying out a relentless promotional campaign on state-controlled and Kremlin-friendly media and via social media. Voters are only offered the option of accepting or rejecting the entire package of amendments as a whole.
Putin first outlined the proposed amendments during his state-of-the-nation address on January 15. On January 20, he submitted most of the changes to the State Duma in a document that ran 29 pages after a cursory discussion by a hastily formed "working group." The Duma unanimously passed them in their first reading just three days later.
On March 10, the wording that would scrap term limits for Putin and allow him to seek reelection in 2024 and 2030 was abruptly added. The package of more than 200 amendments was adopted the next day by both the Duma and the upper chamber of parliament, the Federation Council.
A nationwide vote on the package was initially set for April 22, but was postponed because of the global coronavirus pandemic.
Zharinov wrote that he "fell into a stupor" when lawmakers in Krasnoyarsk -- "like those of other regions of the Russian Federation" -- unanimously voted in favor of the amendments with almost no discussion.
"Everything happened in the most petty way, and that is what just kills me," he wrote in his Facebook post.
Krasnoyarsk is a city of more than 1 million and the capital of a vast region in Siberia.
Opposition figures and others have denounced the amendments and the process by which they are being adopted, calling them a bid by Putin to hold onto power for life.
It is not the first time in recent months that a regional state-television journalist has had trouble going along with the Kremlin's version of a story. In February, news moderator Aleksandra Novikova lit up the Internet when she broke into a lengthy fit of laughter while attempting to report on a modest increase in government subsidies to the most needy. She lost her composure when reporting that the government had allocated 363 rubles ($5.60) for "international" travel for medical treatment.
"I tried, you heard me," she said in the recording, which was not shown on air. "It's a good thing I'm not live."