Deputies in the Russian State Duma have voted to expel lawmaker Gennady Gudkov after prosecutors accused him of engaging in illegal commercial activity while in parliament.
By a vote of 291-150, with three abstentions, lawmakers expelled the A Just Russia deputy, who is an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin and a leader of the political opposition.
Gudkov says the moves against him are politically motivated. Speaking to lawmakers before the vote, Gudkov said it was a case of "political revenge."
"This is simply political revenge for my criticism of failed reforms, for my calls for the removal of unskillful ministers and thieving governors and other officials," he told the Duma before the vote was taken. "This is revenge for [A Just Russia's resistance against recent laws passed by parliament] which showed the country where you're taking it. It is your revenge for the Bolotnaya and Sakharov [opposition protests]."
Gudkov said he plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. He also indicated that he will continue his opposition activities.
"I'm not clinging on to my mandate," he said. "I am ready to leave -- but to leave in order to come back and build a new Russia, a country that everyone living here is proud of, a country we can pass on to our children and grandchildren with dignity. And that will happen soon, believe me, and we will prevail, the truth will prevail, the constitution will prevail, and the law will prevail at last. We will prevail and we will be back."
Gudkov is one of the organizers of the third March of Millions protest
, which is due to be held in Moscow and across the country on September 15.
He has also endorsed an opposition call for early parliamentary and presidential elections on the grounds that the 2011 Duma elections and the presidential election in March were falsified.
Deputies from the ruling United Russia party and the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) voted in favor of the motion to expel Gudkov, while those from A Just Russia and the Communist Party voted against.
LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky noted that Gudkov is a former KGB officer and is currently a colonel in the reserves of the Federal Security Service.
"You call this repression?" Zhirinovsky asked deputies before the vote. "What were you doing for 73 years? You (Gudkov) destroyed democracy as a colonel in the KGB's Fifth Directorate. It was created especially to combat us, the opposition."
A Just Russia and the Communist Party have asked the Constitutional Court to rule on the legality of expelling Gudkov. No criminal case has been opened in the matter.
With reporting by Interfax, AFP, ITAR-TASS, and Rossiya TV