Russia Opposition Lawmaker Expelled from Parliament

Opposition lawmaker Gennady Gudkov was ousted from Russia’s lower house of parliament on Friday over charges he said were “payback” for his involvement in anti-Kremlin protests.

“I will leave, but will return to help build a new Russia that out children and grandchildren can be proud of,” an emotional Gudkov told fellow lawmakers. “And this will be soon – very soon. We will triumph.”

His expulsion after an at times stormy State Duma session came ahead of a mass rally set for central Moscow on Saturday against the twelve-year rule of President Vladimir Putin.

Gudkov, 56, and his son, Dmitry, 32, also a State Duma lawmaker with the A Just Russia party, are among a handful of members of parliament who have joined forces with an opposition movement that has seen an uneasy alliance among liberal, communist, and nationalist forces.

Gudkov, a former KGB colonel, was accused of engaging in commercial activity while serving as a lawmaker, which is forbidden under Russian law.

The vote was called after investigators asked for his expulsion so that they could charge him with fraudulent business dealings in a case that could also land him in jail. State Duma members receive immunity from prosecution.

United Russia’s parliamentary faction and lawmakers from the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party voted for Gudkov’s expulsion, which was approved by 291 members of parliament, almost 70 more than the minimum required.

Gudkov told journalists he would appeal to Russia’s Supreme Court.

The case is almost without precedent. Gudkov, who has been a member of parliament since 2001, would become only the second lawmaker in post-Soviet Russia to be removed from parliament without a court ruling. The only previous legislator to be ejected after a simple Duma vote was Sergei Mavrodi, head of the notorious 1990s MMM pyramid scheme, which cost millions of Russians their life savings.

But Gudkov denied the accusations against him and said they were the Kremlin’s revenge for his involvement in the mass opposition protests that broke out after last December’s disputed parliamentary polls.

“This is pure payback for my opposition activities,” he told RIA Novosti in an exclusive interview last week.

The anti-Putin opposition has linked Gudkov’s expulsion from parliament to what they say is part of a wider crackdown on dissent that has also seen opposition figurehead Alexei Navalny charged with large-scale embezzlement in a case that could land the popular anti-corruption blogger in jail for up to ten years.

But Putin denies “clamping down” on the leaders of unprecedented protests against his twelve-year-rule.

 “If we understand this term as a simple requirement that everyone, including the opposition, complies with Russian law, then this requirement will be consistently enforced,” he said last week in his first television interview since his May 7 inauguration.

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