More than 40 local elected officials across Russia signed a two-sentence petition Monday that ended with: “We demand Vladimir Putin’s resignation as President of the Russian Federation!”

The petition, pushed by opponents of the Ukraine invasion, had no practical effect and was flatly ignored in Russia’s state-controlled media. But it was remarkable in its very existence, showing that despite the Kremlin’s extraordinary crackdown on dissidents, the victories of Ukraine’s counteroffensive have given new heart to opponents of President Vladimir V Putin – and his supporters are looking for someone else to blame be able.

Pro-war advocates and politicians have referred to military leadership or high-ranking officials, saying they did not fight the war with sufficient determination and competence, or did not provide Mr Putin with all the facts. Longtime Kremlin critics have used this discord and Russia’s frontline backlash to risk speaking out against Mr Putin.

“There is now hope that Ukraine will end this war,” said Ksenia Torstrem, a member of the St. Petersburg City Council who helped organize the petition, calling Ukraine’s progress an “inspiring factor” for it. “We decided that we have to put pressure on from all sides.”

On Russian state television, where criticism of the Kremlin is rare, pro-war advocates are increasingly pointing fingers at what they describe as a disorganized and insufficiently concerted invasion; others bring up the idea of ​​asking for peace. Amid mounting anger over the embarrassing withdrawal of Russian troops from more than a thousand square miles of northeastern Ukraine, a senior lawmaker said in an interview that an “urgent adjustment” to the war effort was needed.

In a telephone interview Monday, that lawmaker, Konstantin F. Zatulin, a senior member of parliament in Putin’s United Russia party, detailed the deployment.

Mr Zatulin described the withdrawal of Russian troops as “very serious damage to the very idea of ​​this particular military operation”, using the term the Kremlin has chosen for the war. But he also warned that if criticism of the war effort spiraled out of control from across the political spectrum, there could be unforeseen consequences, citing the 1917 Russian Revolution and the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

“It must be stressed that this criticism should not be exaggerated,” he said. “Otherwise it could trigger an uncontrollable reaction.”

Recognition…Gavriil Grigorov/Sputnik, via Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

Mr Zatulin insisted that any optimism from people hoping Mr Putin would be ousted was “very premature”. Ukraine’s achievements, he said, could prompt the Kremlin to escalate its war effort to try and inflict a decisive defeat on Ukraine, although he added that he did not expect it to mean a “nuclear war”.

“What now appears to some as a success of the Ukrainian side could actually lead to the last drop that will lead to the start of a real war,” said Zatulin. “Given that Russia really has not used the full power of its capabilities, there is nothing left to do but demonstrate that power.”

There is no evidence that Putin’s position in power is weakening, and the Kremlin said Monday the invasion would “continue until initial objectives are met.”

Nevertheless, there were increasing signs that Russia’s elite was unsettled by the army’s withdrawal and unsure of how to proceed.

A member of the lower house of parliament, Mikhail Sheremet, told a Russian news agency that the military in Ukraine will not succeed “without full mobilization”. It was an implicit criticism of Putin’s refusal to go through with a nationwide draft, a move Russian advocates of escalating the war effort have long called for.

The leader of a pro-Putin party, Sergei Mironov, praised Sunday night’s strikes against Ukraine’s infrastructure targets, which left parts of the country without power, but lamented that they “should have been carried out two to three months ago”.

And grumbling continued on the Telegram social network, where Russian military bloggers pro-war have garnered a huge following. “Stop whining,” posted Yevgeny Poddubny, a war correspondent for Russian state television, referring to those worried about an escalating war.

But a senior Member of the House of Lords, Andrei Klimov, tried to buck the voices calling for all-out war, telling reporters he saw no “need” for mobilization or the imposition of martial law.

Recognition…Nanna Heitman for the New York Times

Opponents of Mr. Putin were heartened by the discord.

“Many hope that something will finally break,” said Ivan I. Kurilla, a historian at the European University in St. Petersburg and a critic of Putin, in a telephone interview. “We’re probably wrong, it’s probably not time yet, but since everyone has been waiting for something to crack for half a year, this hope is very strong.”

After February’s invasion, Mr Putin spearheaded the most crackdown on dissidents since he came to power two decades ago, signing a censorship law that criticized the war effort — or even called it a war rather than a “special military operation.” – a potential crime. Thousands of journalists, activists and others fled the country, while nearly all prominent independent news media still operating in Russia were forced to shut down. Leading opposition figures who refused to flee were arrested.

When a group of local councilors from Putin’s hometown of St. Petersburg released a statement last week calling for the president’s impeachment on charges of treason, it was a shocking move in an environment where fears of imprisonment have driven almost all criticism Mr. Putin underground.

Some of those councilors now face fines for “discrediting” the military and government, but in Moscow, members of another local council followed suit, calling for Mr Putin’s resignation. And over the weekend, Ms. Torstrem, the representative of St. Petersburg, wrote in a Telegram chat group to other opposition local MPs: “I also want to do something.”

She is convinced to speak out, she said, both from colleagues who have already published anti-Putin statements and from the military advances of Ukrainian troops. She also noted the dissatisfaction in the pro-Putin camp, saying that this put the Kremlin in a particularly delicate position.

Recognition…Juan Barreto/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Ms Torstrem, who is 38, helped draft the petition issued on Monday calling on Mr Putin to resign. She was careful not to mention the war, to avoid any of the signatories becoming vulnerable under laws criminalizing criticism of it. The petition only said that Mr Putin’s actions “damage the future of Russia and its citizens”.

The petition had 19 signatories from Moscow and St. Petersburg when it was posted to Twitter on Monday morning. By the end of the day, the number had grown to over 40, including community leaders from the remote Siberian city of Yakutsk and from Samara on the Volga.

She acknowledged that it was unclear how the petition could in practice help bring about Mr Putin’s resignation. But one signatory, Vasily Khoroshilov, a Moscow city MP, said the idea was to send a message to powerful opponents of Mr Putin that they had support in the Russian public.

“The radical patriots have also begun to doubt the rightness of the path they have taken,” said Mr. Khoroshilov, 38, in a telephone interview. “Some forces at the highest levels of power might act decisively if they see popular support.”

Mr Putin’s core supporters appear to be focused on the notion that any troubles in the war are not his fault but that he was misled by senior officials or the military leadership.

That was the message from Ramzan Kadyrov, the strong ruler of southern Russia’s Chechnya region. He posted a rambling voice message to his Telegram account over the weekend, warning that he would be forced to “speak to the Department of Defense leadership and the leadership of the country to explain to them if the military fails to finalize its strategy” today or tomorrow” would change the real situation on the ground.”

Recognition…Genghis Kondarov/Reuters

Mr Zatulin, the senior lawmaker, said many in Russia believed “Putin was misinformed and doesn’t know everything, he was deceived”.

“The president himself retains his authority and is the basis of stability at this moment,” said Mr. Zatulin.

But, he warned, “it’s clear that every system has its limitations.”

Alina Lobzina and Ivan Nechepurenko contributed to the coverage.