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Ban on lawmakers' free foreign trips unlikely - United Russia faction leader

March 12, 2013, 18:16 UTC+3

Head of the house committee for procedures called for formalizing all visits as official trips, signed by faction leaders

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MOSCOW, March 12 (Itar-Tass) - Leader of the United Russia faction at the State Duma lower house of the Russian parliament believes that a tough ban on lawmakers' free foreign trips is unlikely.

"I don't think a tough ban is likely," Vasilyev told Echo Moscow radio, in comments on the situation around A Just Russia deputy Dmitry Gudkov's trip to the USA.

"Dmitry Gudkov's trip belongs to the actions that raise questions. The lawmakers raised the issue of foreign trips because they cost money. "Perhaps, those who broached the subject, are wondering who funded the lawmaker's visit," the parliamentarian said.

It is absolutely obvious, that lawmakers should be present at plenary meetings on workdays. However, there may be special circumstances /which are spelled out/. "Of course, a faction may ask questions if it's a foreign trip pursued certain objectives. A lawmaker should inform about his or her whereabouts. There are committees, there are factions; all must know where everybody is," Vasilyev said.

Head of the house committee for procedures Sergei Popov objected to the proposed ban, too, and called for formalizing all visits as official trips, signed by faction leaders.

"We have to streamline the lawmakers' trips," Popov told Itar-Tass.

Media reports said Gudkov had spoken at a forum of the Freedom House rights organization, where he offered U.S. politicians a number of measures to put pressure on corrupted officials in branches of the Russian government, including the State Duma.

Leader of the Liberal Democratic Party /LDPR/ Vladimir Zhirinovsky demanded that lawmaker Dmitry Gudkov be arrested for "high treason."

The house committee for procedures should "demand that Gudkov give up his mandate," while the committee for security must facilitate the opening of a criminal case against Gudkov, a member of A Just Russia Party," Zhirinovsky said during a ten-minute speech in parliament on Tuesday.

"You have the right to hate the regime. But there's the government, the country, the regime, so give up your mandate and get lost," the LDPR leader said addressing his opponent. In his opinion, if a U.S. congressman came to Russia and negotiated as Gudkov did in the USA, he would be immediately placed under arrest upon return. "I suggest doing the same," he stated.

During his visit to the United States, Dmitry Gudkov reportedly gathered information about the life of Russian children living in U.S. foster families.

Popov stated that the idea regarding amendments to the regulations might be interesting, but that his committee had not received any initiatives yet. He also noted that it was not possible to punish Gudkov. "There is the law on the status /of State Duma lawmaker and Federation Council member/ which does not envision such measures. How can you introduce a ban or punishment? /To do it/, you have to amend the law," the parliamentarian said.

"I object to the proposal to amend the regulations. How can you forbid a deputy to make trips? I believe these things must be considered very carefully and examined by experts. My opinion is that that it can be formalized as secondment," Popov said.




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