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MOSCOW, May 21 (Itar-Tass) - Lawmaker from a just Russia faction Ilya Ponomaryov said he is not surrendering his mandate over the scandal involving the misuse of Skolkovo foundation money.
"I've repeatedly stated that I don't cling to lawmaker's powers, but this particular situation is not the case where I have to give them up," Ponomaryov told Itar-Tass on Tuesday.
On Monday evening, Ponomaryov's faction suggested that he step down, in order not to discredit the Party and the State Duma with his involvement in the Skolkovo scandal.
"We offered him to consider voluntary resignation. We'll return to the issue yet," A Just Russia leader Sergei Mironov said after the faction meeting.
Among Ponomaryov's colleagues who urged him to step down were deputy house speaker Nikolai Levichev and head of the committee for family, women and children Yelena Mizulina, sources told Tass.
"My position remains the same. I'm not surrendering the mandate," Ponomaryov responded.
"Lawmaker's powers are an important resource, in the first place for voters of the Novosibirsk region /who elected Ponomaryov to the State Duma/. It will not be quite correct if I dispose of the mandate in such an arbitrary manner," Ponomaryov said.
Commenting on the faction's meeting, he said he had felt support from his colleague. "Indeed, there was a discussion, various proposals, because A Just Russia is often mentioned by the mass media within the context of the financial scandal in Skolkovo. Of course, people speak on this theme; something has to be done; some quarreled, some gave advice."
The faction has made an absolutely unequivocal decision - if the Prosecutor General's Office - requests to strop Ponomaryov of his immunity, A Just Russia will not vote. "Therefore, A Just Russia is not giving me up; it's protecting me," Ponomaryov said.
Mironov earlier said the situation with the Skolkovo scandal was not clear.
"It is unclear what lectures Ponomaryov was reading; the figure is staggering - 750,000 dollars. I don't think he came and said "Give me money, I'll read lectures to you. It's a tip of a huge iceberg," Mironov said, adding that "I wonder why they gave so much money and what they really wanted him to do for them."
The Investigative Committee opened a criminal case against vice-president of the Skolkovo foundation Alexei Beltyukov. The SK said the top manager had signed a contract with Ponomaryov and illegally paid him 750,000 dollars of the foundation's money.
Under the contract, Ponomaryov was to have received 300,000 dollars. Meanwhile, Ponomaryov claims he did more work than indicated in his account.
SK spokesman Vladimir Markin said "during the latest questioning, investigators informed Ponomaryov that they would open a criminal case against him and ask to strip him of lawmaker' immunity."
Ponomaryov claimed the SK's decision to open a case against him was political. He also said he was bewildered by the investigator's analysis of his work at the Skolkovo foundation.
"All explanations regarding the contract with Skolkovo have been offered; the discussions are about "should this have been done or should not? I don't understand why the SK is handling it; is it responsible for the country's innovations?" Ponomaryov told Tass on Monday.
On Monday evening, reports said the Skolkovo foundation and Ponomaryov refused to reach an amicable agreement.
Moscow's Gagarinsky court said it would review Skolkovo foundation's lawsuit vs Ponomaryov on June 21.
Ponomaryov's lawyer Marianna Vlasova called Skolkovo's position unsubstantiated, explaining that the lawsuit was based on claims to quality and quantity of the lectures Ponomaryov had read. "The sum of claim is nine million; but we don't acknowledge it and believe all the arguments cited in the statement of claim are unsubstantiated," the lawyer said.
Ponomaryov told Itar-Tass that he did not regard himself a guilty party.
Skolkovo foundation director Viktor Vekselberg said they had sued Ponomaryov after his refusal to give an account of the lectures for which he had received 750,000 U.S. dollars.