Russian parliament to rule on opposition lawmaker

AP News
Posted: Mar 26, 2015 5:07 AM
Russian parliament to rule on opposition lawmaker

MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian parliament is to consider a prosecutors' request to proceed with legal action against the lone lawmaker who voted against the annexation of Crimea and is suspected of embezzlement.

State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin said Thursday the parliament received a request from Russian prosecutors to strip Ilya Ponomarev of immunity from prosecution, paving the way for legal proceedings. Naryshkin said Ponomarev is suspected of embezzlement related to his work for a state-funded technological foundation, which was also the subject of a civil lawsuit in 2013.

The motion to strip him of immunity is to be considered on April 6.

Ponomarev is one of the few remaining opposition deputies at the State Duma. He is currently in the United States.

The State Duma has a history of expelling opposition lawmakers. The Russian parliament in 2012 kicked out Gennady Gudkov, who helped stage a series of anti-government street protests in 2011, and removed his immunity from prosecution on accusations that did not lead to any charges.

Ponomarev, 39, was the target of a civil lawsuit in 2013 for 2.7 million rubles ($47,000) for failing to deliver the agreed number of lectures at Skolkovo, a high-tech foundation promoted by former president Dmitry Medvedev. Following futile attempts to appeal the ruling, Ponomarev began to pay down the debt.

Naryshkin told reporters on Thursday the prosecutors suspect the lawmaker of embezzlement at Skolkovo but did not provide details.

Ponomarev told The Associated Press that the actions of Russian prosecutions "are beyond the legal framework."

Ponomarev dismissed the accusations against him as politically motivated and said the motion at the Duma is a reaction to his announcement that he is going to return to Russia in May.