Kremlin critic found with dead elk in car is stripped of immunity

The Guardian - Thu Nov 25 16:01

Russia’s State Duma has voted to deprive a Communist MP of his immunity from prosecution after police found the dismembered remains of an elk in the boot of his car.

Valery Rashkin, who recently led protests against the Kremlin over alleged election fraud, could face criminal charges for illegal hunting and may also be stripped of his seat in parliament.

Police say officers discovered the animal remains during a traffic stop in the Saratov region in October. Rashkin also faces punishment for refusing to take a breathalyser test, Russian prosecutors said.

Rashkin has said the case against him is politically motivated and is meant to punish him for his criticism of the September elections.

He initially said he dismembered the animal in order to put it in the boot of his car and report it to the police. In remarks to the broadcaster RTVI in October, he called the incident a “provocation”.

This week Rashkin said he was ready to pay a fine or to “offset the material and environmental damage” by buying a female moose of the same age and releasing it into the wild.

Russian MPs are granted immunity from prosecution but can be stripped of that privilege by a majority vote in the Duma. On Thursday lawmakers voted 341-55 to support the general prosecutor’s motion against Rashkin.

Government officials have denied that Rashkin is being targeted because of his political views, although vocal opponents of the Kremlin have been demonstratively purged from the legislature before.

“There can be no talk of any political agenda here,” Russia’s top prosecutor, Igor Krasnov, told the Duma. He said the evidence against Rashkin included a scene examination report, biological, DNA and ballistic testing, and witness testimony.

The charges mentioned in the prosecutor’s motion carry a maximum five-year prison term.