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Ukraine launches criminal probe against lawmakers for their visit to Russia

A group of 24 Ukrainian lawmakers from the country’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, attended last week a session of the State Duma
The Verkhovna Rada ITAR-TASS/Maxim Nikitin
The Verkhovna Rada
© ITAR-TASS/Maxim Nikitin

KIEV, September 25. /ITAR-TASS/. The Ukrainian Interior Ministry initiated a criminal probe in regard to a group of the country’s lawmakers who last week traveled to Moscow, met with their Russian colleagues and attended a session of the Russian parliament’s lower house, Zoryan Shkiryak, an adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister, said on Thursday.

“The main investigative department of the Interior Ministry launched a criminal probe into the reported case of (Ukrainian) lawmakers’ participation in a session of the (Russian) State Duma,” Shkiryak said.

He said the criminal case was opened on charges of “infringement on the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine committed by state officials”. If lawmakers are found guilty under the pressed charges, they face between five and ten years in prison.

Ukrainian lawmakers visit Russian State Duma

A group of 24 Ukrainian lawmakers from the country’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, attended last week a session of the State Duma, where lawmakers of both countries spoke in favor of a dialogue between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents.

“When presidents are holding an uneasy dialogue, we (lawmakers) need to lend them support,” Ukrainian lawmaker Vladimir Oleinik said at the session in the Russian parliament’s lower house.

However, Oleksandr Turchynov, the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, submitted with the Verkhovna Rada a draft decree on Tuesday requesting to strip the lawmakers of their salaries and bar them from all parliamentary sessions in Ukraine.

{article_photo:750703:'Russian Duma speaker criticizes Turchynov for intention to punish 24 Ukrainian deputies':'right':'50'}Russia's reaction

Reaction of Kiev authorities to their lawmakers’ visit to Moscow raised serious concerns among Russian lawmakers.

Leonid Slutsky, the head of the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, called the launched criminal probe against the Ukrainian lawmakers “as real political repression.”

“Present-day Kiev authorities announce the course towards the European democracy but at the same time they, in the best traditions of totalitarian regimes, are dispatching not only of dissidents, but of simply self-motivated lawmakers,” Slutsky said.

Slutsky said that the Ukrainian lawmakers’ visit was not about “the infringement on the territorial integrity of Ukraine, but about possible forms of the Russian-Ukrainian inter-parliamentary cooperation.”

State Duma Speaker Sergey Naryshkin proposed Russian lawmakers on Wednesday to think well over the future format of cooperation with the Ukrainian Rada.
“Unfortunately, Verkhovna Rada Speaker Alexander Turchinov called those dignified citizens of Ukraine traitors and now proposes to strip them of their salaries and bar them from Verkhovna Rada sessions,” Naryshkin said on Monday addressing a session of the State Duma’s working group on the analysis of the Ukrainian legislature.

He said that such behavior and statements on behalf of the Ukrainian parliament’s speaker “characterize the level of democracy in the present-day Verkhovna Rada and the essence of modern Ukraine’s course towards the European integration.”

Russian lawmakers, Naryshkin said, need also pay close attention to preparations in Ukraine for the upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for October 26.

Political contenders in Ukraine’s election

Taking part in Ukraine’s October 26 parliamentary elections from political parties there will be mostly public activists, journalists and representatives of armed groups of volunteers, who were involved in what Kiev authorities called an anti-terrorist operation in the east of the country. In the majoritarian constituencies, nomination of candidates will last until September 25.

The pro-presidential party, Solidarity, has changed its name to register under a brand much clearer to the average voter - the Pyotr Poroshenko Bloc. It has incorporated the party UDAR (literally translating as Punch) under Kiev’s mayor, former boxer Vitali Klitschko, leading the party’s election ticket.

Batkivschchina, the party under former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, has put on top of its candidates list  the name of woman pilot Nadezhda Savchenko, currently facing trial in Russia on charges of complicity in the death of Russian journalists in Ukraine.

Batkivschchina’s breakaway group, including Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, parliamentary speaker Aleksandr Turchinov and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, has founded a new party calling itself Popular Front and proposed a list of candidates it presents as “revolutionaries” - those who at the beginning of this year spearheaded the street demonstrations in Kiev in support of euro-integration and toppled former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.

Candidates from the Radical Party of Oleg Lyashko, a legislator notorious for his ultra-nationalist escapades and rowdy manners such as manhandling journalists, are assorted and controversial - there are those who participated in the crackdown on defiant southeastern regions, volunteers from military hospitals, former political prisoners and high-profile athletes.

The former ruling party - the Party of Regions - decided against participation in the election.