JTA — A local Russian lawmaker from President Vladimir Putin’s ruling party reportedly opposed making public transportation free for Holocaust survivors.
Andrei Yershov of the Smolensk city council in western Russia admitted to making the explosive comments during a free-ranging council debate Oct. 16, AFP reported.
A recording of that meeting — a tape that has gone viral in recent days in Russia — shows Yershov wanting to know early on in the debate “why is it that we owe anything” to the prisoners. “Why? For the simple reason that they were not finished off,” the local city council member asked during the rowdy session.
According to Russian law, any Russian who was held in a concentration camp up to the age of 18 is entitled to a range of benefits, including free transport.
Those affected are chiefly the victims of the Nazi persecution of Jews in World War II.
The controversy spread when the tape was posted on the website of the country’s Komsomolskaya Pravda daily.
Smolensk region Governor Alexei Ostrovsky said on Friday that “the fact that Yershov should not remain a representative of the people was not even subject to debate,” AFP reported.
But the lawmaker mounted a stiff defense of his case by saying that he would not resign until the local legislature offered free transport “to all the children of World War II” — and not just the concentration camp survivors.
Putin’s ruling party officials in Moscow condemned the lawmaker’s comments.