MOSCOW, April 7. /TASS/. Russia’s State Duma is expected to discuss a query from the Prosecutor General’s Office on revoking parliamentary immunity of the oppositionist Deputy Ilya Ponomaryov in connection with embezzlement charges brought on against him.
The discussion of the query is to begin at 16:00 Moscow time (14:00 GMT), house speaker Sergey Naryshkin told reporters on Monday.
The Duma received a query from the Prosecutor General’s Office at the end of March asking it to give consent to opening a criminal case over the man’s supposed "most active part" in embezzling 22 million rubles (about $ 382,600) from the Skolkovo fund, which had signed contracts for research works and lectures with him.
Most party caucuses in the Duma, including the caucus of a Just Russia Party, of which Ponomaryov is formally a member, are prepared to revoke his immunity.
"This revocation is only the first step towards stripping Ponomaryov of the deputy’s mandate," caucus speaker Sergey Mironov said. "He doesn’t turn up for work for seven months already. In fact, he is absent from Russia although he continues getting a salary of around 400,000 rubles a month."
Ponomaryov, a deputy representing Novosibirsk, told TASS earlier the query might be linked to his plans to return to Russia somewhat later this year.
He added, however, 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?"
"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 paid off, 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.
Skolkovo Foundation filed a lawsuit against Ponomaryov in April 2013. Top executives of the fund said this happened after his refusal to file a financial report on the lectures, for which he had received $ 750,000 under contract and a court entertained it partially in August 2013.
In September 2014, Ponomaryov told TASS he was outside of Russia but war ready to return unless restrictions on his entry were introduced. He said then he was going to stay in Asian countries and the US.