(JTA) — A Russian lawmaker from President Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party reportedly opposed making public transportation free for Holocaust survivors.
Andrei Yershov of the Smolensk City Council in western Russia acknowledged making the comments during a free-ranging council debate Oct. 16, the French news agency AFP reported.
A recording of the meeting, which has gone viral in Russia, shows Yershov wanting to know "why is it that we owe anything" to the prisoners.
"Why? For the simple reason that they were not finished off?" he asked early in the rowdy session.
Russian law stipulates that 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.
Alexei Ostrovsky, governor of the Smolensk region, said Friday that "the fact that Yershov should not remain a representative of the people was not even subject to debate," AFP reported. But Yershov said he would not resign until the local legislature offered free transport "to all the children of World War II," not just the concentration camp survivors.
United Russia party officials in Moscow condemned the lawmaker’s comments.