The only Russian MP who voted against annexation of Crimea loses his immunity
In a move that surprised few Russian observers, the State Duma (Russian Parliament) voted to strip away parliamentary immunity from Duma member Ilya Ponomarev.
Ponomarev, who is an outspoken critic of Russian leadership and cast the lone vote opposing the annexation of Crimea, said the move by his fellow parliamentarians was not unexpected given the current atmosphere in Russia.
Ponomarev is currently residing in the U.S. and continues his fight for a more free and democratic Russia. He said the removal of his parliamentary immunity was so formal charges could be filed against him in a case regarding the Skolkovo Foundation. Ponomarev is accused of embezzlement, but fiercely denies the charges and views them as yet another example of how people who disagree with Kremlin policy are singled out and punished.
“What happened in the Duma today is another act of war. The war is not with me; it is not even with the Russian opposition,” he said. “It is the war Putin is waging against the middle class people, all entrepreneurs – those who were awaken by ‘reset’ policies and those who demanded changes in Bolotnaya square in Moscow in 2011-12.”
Despite the pending inquiry, Ponomarev says he will not be slowed in his efforts to win greater freedoms for the Russian people and will do so outside of the system with the current move by Kremlin-backed prosecutors. “Many of us who disagree with the current regime are in the U.S., and the Kremlin is comfortable with it. But we will get more organized and we will be back – as it happened already not once and not twice in Russian history,” he explained. “We will not feel sorry for those who initiated that farce in the State Duma – formerly Russian parliament.”
Besides the vote on Crimea, Ponomarev was an active participant and organizer of Russian opposition actions in 2011-2013. As a Member of Russian Parliament he proposed bills aimed at the country’s development. In June 2012, together with fellow A Just Russia party member, Dmitry Gudkov, he conducted a filibuster at the Duma protesting against amendments that toughened the rules of conducting rallies.
While staying in the U.S. for now, Ponomarev continues to connect his future with Russia and to fight for ordinary Russians against what he believes is a corrupt and repressive regime.