Russia's legislative body ousted dissident lawmaker Gennady Gudkov today, just a day before thousands of Russians are expected to take to the streets to protest against Vladimir Putin's rule.
In a nearly unprecedented action, the pro-Kremlin majority in Russia's State Duma voted to strip dissident lawmaker Gennady Gudkov of his parliamentary mandate Friday. The move – just a day before thousands of Russians are expected to return to the streets of Moscow to protest against Vladimir Putin's increasingly authoritarian rule – is seen by many as part of a wider crackdown to warn of the consequences for participating in the nearly 10-month-old opposition movement.
Mr. Gudkov is a former KGB colonel who broke with Mr. Putin's United Russia party five years ago to join the center-left Just Russia party, and recently became a strong supporter of the anti-Putin protest movement. He was accused by the Duma majority of engaging in commercial activities – which is illegal for Duma members while in office – and his case was rushed through this week, culminating in a 291-150 vote to expel him in the 450-seat lower house of parliament Friday. He denies the allegations, and warns that he may be just the first of several opposition-minded deputies slated to face the revenge of the pro-Putin majority.
"I am a shareholder, but not an active businessman, and there are no legal restrictions on a deputy having this status," Gudkov says. "What is happening to me now is an extrajudicial reprisal. Lawyers say the allegations against me have 'no legal significance.' In other words, they are using this as a pretext to force me out for political reasons."
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