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Russian investigators to open criminal case against opposition lawmaker over embezzlement

March 26, 2015, 17:35 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Ilya Ponomaryov was the only deputy in the State Duma who voted against the ratification of a treaty on reincorporation of Crimea in the Russian Federation in March 2014
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Russian State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomaryov

Russian State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomaryov

© ITAR-TASS/Mikhail Japaridze

MOSCOW, March 26. /TASS/. Russia’s Investigations Committee plans instituting a criminal case against the State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomaryov who is currently staying abroad.

He is accused of complicity in embezzling 22 million rubles ($ 383,300) that he received from the Skolkovo Foundation, Vladimir Markin, the official spokesman for the Investigations Committee told TASS on Thursday.

In April 2013, the Skolkovo Foundation filed a lawsuit against Ponomaryov, who was formally a member of A Just Russia Party’s caucus in the State Duma. The lawsuit followed his refusal to file a financial report on the lectures, which he was support to give under a contract with the foundation and which he received $ 750,000 for.

Ponomaryov said in a telephone interview with TASS last September he was staying abroad but he was ready to return unless the authorities imposed foreign travel restrictions on him. At the time of the conversation, he had plans to stay in Asian countries and to go to the US.

The Office of Russia’s Prosecutor General submitted a query to the Duma on Wednesday, March 25, asking it to strip Ponomaryov of parliamentary immunity.

"The information available to me says the house has received the documents from the Prosecutor General’s Office, indeed," Yuri Shuvalov, the chief of the Duma department for public relations told reporters later on the same day.

On Thursday, he quoted Duma speaker Sergey Naryshkin saying that query had been redirected to the parliamentary procedures committee.

Ilya Ponomaryov himself was the first one to report on the prosecutors’ query regarding the revocation of his parliamentary immunity. He linked it to his plans to return to Russia in May 2015.

He added that he would not return if a threat of being arrested by law enforcement agencies emerged. "If they want to detain me I won’t return, naturally, because it’s no sense going to jail of your own free will, is it?" he said.

"However, if no such decision (on the revocation of immunity - TASS) is taken, and the debt (an overdue debt he is accused of having - TASS) is settled, then I’ll come to Russia because I am a member of parliament there and no one relieved me of these duties there," Ponomaryov said.

He said he was not going to step down as a member of parliament of his own free will. Nor was he going to appeal for asylum in any other country.

Ilya Ponomaryov was the only deputy in the State Duma who voted against the ratification of a treaty on reincorporation of Crimea in the Russian Federation in March 2014.

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