Russian opposition lawmaker barred from floor

AP News
Posted: Sep 28, 2012 8:17 AM
Russian opposition lawmaker barred from floor

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's parliament voted Friday to bar an opposition lawmaker from the floor for a month after he referred to deputies in the ruling party as "crooks and thieves."

The decision to bar Ilya Ponomaryov from speaking in parliament comes two weeks after fellow Just Russia party member Gennady Gudkov was expelled from the Duma for allegedly running a business in violation of parliament rules.

The politicians were two of only a handful of lawmakers to join the ranks of a growing popular street-based movement opposed to President Vladimir Putin's rule that emerged last year.

"Crooks and thieves" was a term coined by prominent opposition figure and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny to describe Putin's political party, United Russia. Russian opposition activist frequently accuse the government of misappropriating state funds for personal gain.

Another Just Russia member, Nikolai Levichev, was barred for a week in July for urging local authorities not to "kiss their bosses' butts."

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Ponomaryov refused to apologize and told Kommersant FM radio station that his silence would be "highly eloquent and, with your help, perhaps quite loud."

Although Ponomaryov will be able to take the floor from mid-November, his troubles may not end there.

Senior United Russia member, Andrei Isayev, has suggested Ponomaryov and Gudkov could be prosecuted under the criminal statute for libel, which was reintroduced in July.