An opposition parliamentarian in Russia's lower house, the Duma, has been expelled after allegations he pursued illegal business interests while in office. Gennady Gudkov says his ouster was a "political vendetta."
Friday's vote to remove Gudkov took place on the eve of a planned protest against President Vladimir Putin, with the ousted parliamentarian saying his expulsion will increase the political divide.
"We have shamed ourselves today in front of the whole world," Gudkov told reporters following the vote while announcing his intention to appeal. "I am going to continue the struggle and I will not leave the country and hide like a hare. The country has made another step toward civil war."
Gudkov is a leading figure in the protest movement against Putin and has taken part in several demonstrations that have taken place in Russia since elections in December of last year.
According to Deputy General Prosecutor Vladimir Malinovsky, Gudkov conducted "entrepreneurial activities" before he joined the Duma and did not stop once he became a member. Maintaining business activities while serving in the Duma is illegal in Russia.
The Duma cast 291 votes in favor of Gudkov's expulsion and 150 against. There were also three abstentions from the 444 lawmakers present.
Gudkov could now face criminal charges over the allegations because he is no longer protected by parliamentary immunity from prosecution. The investigation into the allegations will continue until September 23, at which point prosecutors will decide if they will purse charges.
Previously the leader of the People's Party of Russia and an ally of Putin's United Russia, Gudkov became an opposition leader ahead of the December election.
Ahead of Friday's vote, the European Union issued a statement cautioning Russia "to refrain from using laws arbitrarily for the purpose of clamping down on members of the opposition."
Several thousand people are expected to take to the streets in Moscow on Saturday in the latest protest against the Putin regime.
mz/mkg (Reuters, dpa, AFP)