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After dramatic closed session, federal agents arrest Russian senator on Senate floor

Source: Meduza
Valery Sharifulin / TASS / Vida Press

On Wednesday, Rauf Arashukov was arrested on the Senate floor of the Federation Council. On the morning of January 30, the parliament’s upper chamber was unexpectedly closed to the public, and Federal Protective Service officers sealed the assembly hall’s entrances and exits. Attorney General Yuri Chaika then addressed the senators. Federal Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin and his deputy director were also in the audience, a source told Interfax. During Chaika’s speech, Arashukov tried to leave the room, but Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko insisted that he stay, according to the news agency TASS. Arashukov’s colleagues then voted to strip him of his legal immunity as a senator and sanctioned his arrest by federal agents. Afterwards, the ruling political party United Russia suspended his membership, pending the results of an investigation.

Federal investigators suspect Arashukov of involvement in the contract killings of a youth activist named Aslan Zhukov and an adviser to former Karachay-Cherkessia President Boris Ebzeyev named Fral Shebzukhov. The two men were murdered in 2010. Three suspects in the case previously implicated Arashukov in the killings, though the senator’s representatives deny that there is any evidence connecting him to the crimes. The website Baza cites unverified reports that Arashukov is also a suspect in another two murders, claiming that police found a fake passport at his home that he allegedly intended to use to fly to the United Arab Emirates. Officials have not commented on these claims.

In addition to homicide, Arashukov is implicated in several other serious crimes. A source told the news agency TASS that the senator is suspected of leading or at least participating in organized crime. He is also accused of causing grievous bodily harm and even forging the documents that allowed him to join the Federation Council, according to RIA Novosti. Prosecutors in the United Arab Emirates previously accused Arashukov of falsifying his residency permit (changing its expiration date from February 2017 to August 2016) to sidestep restrictions on Russian senators. Arashukov called these allegations “nonsense.”

Update: Federal investigators have charged Senator Arashukov with three felonies, including criminal conspiracy and murder. During his police interrogation, Arashukov requested an interpreter, claiming to have a weak grasp of the Russian language.

Rauf Arashukov is just 32 years old, but he’s already spent 14 years in politics. He became a city council member in Stavropol in 2014. By the age of 21, he was Karachay-Cherkessia's labor and social development minister. Over the years, Arashukov served in Karachay-Cherkessia’s parliament and government, and worked for different Gazprom subsidiaries. He joined the Federation Council on September 18, 2016.

His father is now in custody, too. Hours after Senator Arashukov’s arrest, federal agents also detained his father, Raul Arashukov, at his Gazprom office in St. Petersburg. He is suspected of involvement in the alleged embezzlement of more than 30 billion rubles ($454.8 million).

Alexander Baklanov

Translation by Kevin Rothrock