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Veteran Communist Party lawmaker Valery Rashkin was stripped of parliamentary immunity. What happens now?

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  • What happened?
  • What punishment could Valery Rashkin face?
  • Why did he have to be stripped of immunity?
  • Does this mean Rashkin might be jailed pending trial?
  • Can he really be sent to prison? 
  • Did anyone from the KPRF vote to strip Rashkin of immunity?
  • Is Valery Rashkin still a lawmaker?

What happened?

On November 25, the Russian State Duma stripped veteran Communist Party (KPRF) lawmaker Valery Rashkin of his parliamentary immunity. The lawmakers voted to uphold a request from the Attorney General’s Office to pursue criminal charges against Rashkin for illegal hunting, and authorized administrative charges against him, as well.

Prosecutors requested that the State Duma remove Rashkin’s immunity in order to pursue a criminal case opened in October, after Saratov police stopped Rashkin for drunk driving and found a butchered elk in his car. The officers arrested Rashkin and also drew up administrative charges against him after he refused to take a breathalyzer test. 

Initially, Rashkin denied the poaching accusations, claiming he had stumbled upon the elk carcass. He later admitted to killing the animal himself. 


What punishment could Valery Rashkin face?

A major fine or even time in prison. Prosecutors obtained the State Duma’s consent to pursue charges against Rashkin under Criminal Code Article 258, section 2 — illegal hunting by a group of persons by previous concert. This felony is punishable by fines ranging from 500,000 to 1 million rubles ($6,620–$13,240), or imprisonment for between three and five years.

In addition, Rashkin’s refusal to take a breathalyzer test constitutes a misdemeanor offense. Prosecutors obtained consent to bring charges against him under Administrative Code Article 12.26, section 2 — non-fulfilment by a driver of a police officer’s order to undergo a medical examination for intoxication. This is punishable by 10–15 days administrative arrest or a 30,000 ruble fine ($400), if the offender can’t be jailed. 


Why did he have to be stripped of immunity?

Because otherwise he could not be brought to justice.

The Russian Constitution guarantees sitting State Duma deputies immunity for their entire term in office: “They cannot be detained, arrested, or searched, except in cases of detention at a scene of the crime, [or] body-searched, except in cases when it is provided by federal law to ensure the safety of other people.”

The federal law on the status of State Duma deputies further clarifies that the concept of immunity also includes a ban on bringing criminal or administrative charges against lawmakers.


Does this mean Rashkin might be jailed pending trial?

No. To remand a parliamentary lawmaker in custody, prosecutors have to obtain a separate consent from the State Duma. However, this has happened to deputies from previous convocations. For example, in March 2011, the State Duma voted in favor of the arrest of Ashot Yegiazaryan, and in October 2015 it consented to the arrest of Ilya Ponomarev. In both cases, however, the lawmakers had already fled the country. 

That said, prosecutors have already obtained the State Duma’s consent for another measure of restraint — banning Valery Rashkin from certain activities. What exactly Rashkin will be prohibited from doing will be determined by whether or not the court upholds the request from prosecutors. 


Can he really be sent to prison? 

At present this isn’t possible. After the completion of a preliminary investigation, the State Duma must separately consent to the criminal case against Rashkin being put before a court. The same applies to the administrative case against him (for which he could face 10–15 days in jail if found guilty, as previously mentioned). In the past, the State Duma has given consent for two separate cases against lawmakers deprived of immunity to be sent to the courts.


Did anyone from the KPRF vote to strip Rashkin of immunity?

No. A total of 341 lawmakers voted to pursue the criminal charges and 343 voted to pursue the misdemeanor case — all of the votes came from members of other factions. In both cases, 55 lawmakers were opposed; the overwhelming majority of them were from the Communist Party faction. Two more lawmakers abstained. In principle, a simple majority — 226 votes — is enough to deprive a deputy of parliamentary immunity. 


Is Valery Rashkin still a lawmaker?

Yes, Rashkin is still a State Duma deputy. He will only lose his mandate if/when a conviction comes into legal force.

Explainer by Denis Dmitriev

Translation by Eilish Hart

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