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Russian Duma Strips Immunity From Deputy Who Opposed Crimea Seizure


Ilya Ponomaryov, who has lived in the United States since last year, denies wrongdoing and says the embezzlement allegations are politically motivated.

Ilya Ponomaryov, who has lived in the United States since last year, denies wrongdoing and says the embezzlement allegations are politically motivated.

Russia's the lower house of parliament has voted almost unanimously to strip the immunity of lawmaker Ilya Ponomaryov, the only member of the State Duma who voted against the annexation of Crimea last year.

Meeting on April 7, Duma deputies voted 438 to one to remove Ponomaryov's immunity, which paves the way for criminal charges to be brought against him.

Authorities say Ponomaryov, one of the very few opposition lawmakers in the State Duma, is suspected of embezzling some 22 million rubles (about $400,000) earmarked for Skolkovo, an innovation-hub project outside Moscow.

First Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Buksman attended the Duma session and said there was already enough evidence to charge Ponomaryov.

Ponomaryov, who has lived in the United States since last year, denies wrongdoing and says the embezzlement allegations are politically motivated.

Ponomaryov has already said he has no intention of returning to Russia.

Ekho Moskvy radio last month quoted Ponomaryov as saying, "What's the point of just voluntarily going to prison?"

Based on reporting by Ekho Moskvy, TASS, and Interfax
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