Russia’s State Duma voted yesterday to partially strip Vladimir Golovlyov, a dissident member of the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) and a leader of the opposition Liberal Russia movement, of his immunity from criminal prosecution. Earlier this week, the Prosecutor General’s Office had asked the Duma to revoke Golovlyov’s parliamentary immunity so that he could be prosecuted for fraud, abuse of office and bribery in connection with his work in the Chelyabinsk Oblast branch of the State Property Committee, which he headed prior to winning election to the Duma in 1996 (see the Monitor, October 30). The request was initially denied on Wednesday (October 31), when the Duma fell 12 votes short of stripping Golovlyov of immunity. Yesterday, however, the lower parliamentary chamber overwhelmingly passed an initiative put forward by the Unity, Fatherland-All Russia and Golovlyov’s own SPS faction, which agreed both to rescind the deputy’s immunity and that he should be criminally charged and subjected to searches, but refused to sanction his arrest. Some deputies said that this initiative violated the Duma’s procedural norms, which state that the Prosecutor General’s Office must file a new formal request before another vote to rescind immunity can be taken. Whatever the case, SPS leader Boris Nemtsov reportedly convinced Kremlin administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin to convince the pro-Kremlin Duma factions to approve a softer version of the measure–one that would not sanction Golovlyov’s arrest (Moscow Times, Kommersant, November 2).
Golovlyov, for his part, has denied all the charges against him, calling yesterday’s vote a victory and saying the scandal would give Liberal Russia the opportunity to “inform the whole world about violations of human rights in Russia” (Kommersant, Moscow Times, November 2). In remarks published yesterday, Golovlyov vowed to sue Russia’s law enforcement, including in “international court” (NTV.ru, November 1). The rebel deputy insists the charges against him are politically motivated and connected to the fact that he and Sergei Yushenkov, a fellow leader of Liberal Russia and Duma deputy, met earlier this year with the self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky to discuss financing an anti-Kremlin opposition coalition. In an interview published on October 30, Golovlyov claimed that he had been subjected to other forms of “pressure” for more than a week, including “suggestions to leave the country” which came from, among others, “representatives of the Kremlin authorities” (Gazeta.ru, October 30). While Nemtsov and other SPS leaders supported revoking his parliamentary immunity, other SPS members have denounced it. Viktor Pokhmelkin, the first deputy head of the SPS faction in the Duma, called the prosecutor general’s request to remove Golovlyov’s immunity “an ordered-up political provocation aimed at discrediting people who have been so bold as to proclaim themselves in opposition to the ruling regime” (Polit.ru, October 30).
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