MOSCOW, September 14 (Marc Bennetts, RIA Novosti)
Opposition lawmaker Gennady Gudkov was fighting for his parliamentary survival on Friday ahead of a vote on his ouster from the lower house on charges he says are “payback” for his involvement in anti-Kremlin protests.
“You will see today that all these lies and slander are worth nothing,” Gudkov told journalists ahead of Friday’s parliamentary session. “These are illegal actions that will rebound on the authorities and set underway processes that will lead to their self-destruction.”
“If this is my Golgotha, I’m ready for it,” Gudkov added as he entered the State Duma building. “We will fight today.”
The vote comes 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, is 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 has already indicated it will vote for Gudkov’s ouster should the allegations be confirmed, and the party’s slim majority would be sufficient to approve his dismissal.
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 denies the accusations against him and says they are 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 links the attempt to expel Gudkov 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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The British experience can be instructive for Russia. London retains its British Commonwealth if it wants to use this as a foundation for integration in the future. That’s a valuable lesson for Russian experts who are calling for an end to “ineffective” associations like the CIS, the Russian World and others.