Russian Parliament Strips Opposition Lawmaker of Immunity

Russia’s lower house of parliament expelled a prominent opposition lawmaker, stripping him of immunity as he faces potential criminal charges.

In a session shown on state television, 291 deputies in the State Duma voted in favor of ousting Gennady Gudkov, with 150 opposing and three abstentions.

Gudkov, a member of the Just Russia party who’s accused of breaking the law by running a business while being a member of parliament, is one of the organizers of protests against President Vladimir Putin. The next opposition rally in Moscow is scheduled for tomorrow.

“Putin has no choice, either he drives the country onto the very risky path of full-scale civil conflict or he opts for negotiations with those who are demanding free and fair elections,” Gudkov said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp broadcast today.

The Investigative Committee on Aug. 1 said it has proof of “illegal business activity” by Gudkov. A criminal case may be opened against Gudkov on charges that carry a maximum penalty of two years in jail, the committee said.

Putin, 59, who won another six years in the Kremlin in March, has responded to the largest demonstrations since he came to power in 2000 by tightening controls over the Internet and non-governmental organizations and prosecuting opposition activists and leaders. Protest leader and anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny faces as long as 10 years in jail after being charged with embezzlement.

Gudkov, a reserve colonel in the Federal Security Service, or FSB, the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, announced in June that he was selling his private security business after it came under pressure from the authorities. He said last month he had decided to give the business away to its managers to preserve employees’ jobs, and had lost $10 million to $15 million.

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