The Prosecutor General’s Office today asked the State Duma to remove the immunity from criminal prosecution enjoyed by parliamentary deputies from Vladimir Golovlyov, a member of the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) and deputy head of the Duma’s budget committee. Golovlyov has reportedly been charged with 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. According to Mikhail Grishankov, a Duma deputy with the Russia’s Regions faction, the Chelyabinsk Oblast prosecutor’s office launched criminal proceedings against Golovlyov in 1996, but was unable to arrest him because he had already become a Duma deputy and thus had immunity from prosecution (Polit.ru, October 30).
What is particularly interesting about the situation surrounding Golovlyov is that he and fellow deputy Sergei Yushenkov earlier this year announced plans to set up a coalition of democrats opposed to President Vladimir Putin. Yushenkov is a leader of the Liberal Russia movement and Golovlyov heads its executive political committee. Both said that the new opposition coalition would be founded on the basis of Liberal Russia. Both said that they would leave the SPS, which Yushenkov said had become too “servile” to the Kremlin. This past spring, they traveled together to France to visit Boris Berezovsky, who last year went into self-imposed exile after accusing Putin of authoritarianism. Upon their return, Yushenkov and Golovlyov announced that Berezovsky had promised to fund their new coalition (see the Monitor, June 4).
Today Yushenkov denounced the request from the Prosecutor General’s Office to the Duma to remove Golovlyov’s immunity from prosecution as “an attack by the authorities on the opposition.” Yushenkov claimed the criminal case against Golovlyov had long ago “waned” because the law enforcement authorities were unable to find evidence against him. According to Yushenkov, the authorities have revived the case against Golovlyov now because Liberal Russia’s leaders have become increasingly critical of the Russian government (Polit.ru, October 30).
In any case, it is quite possible that the move against Golovlyov is part of a stepped up campaign by the Kremlin against Berezovsky and other members of the Yeltsin-era Kremlin inner circle. Earlier this month, the Prosecutor General’s Office formally charged Berezovsky with various crimes, including money laundering, in connection with the so-called Aeroflot case, and put out a warrant for his arrest (see the Monitor, October 23).
Meanwhile, the SPS faction in the Duma announced today that it would vote in favor of removing Golovlyov’s immunity from prosecution. The faction’s leader, Boris Nemtsov, said: “The SPS has always favored… doing away with parliamentary immunity. Everybody must be equal before the law” (Polit.ru, October 30).
MOSCOW KEEPS ONE FOOT AT GUDAUTA.