A firebrand nationalist Russian lawmaker has called for a criminal investigation of the Freemasons, saying the fraternal organization is engaging in illegal political activity.
The call by State Duma member Vitaly Milonov was met quickly with derision by the Freemason organization in Russia, which released a statement on Facebook saying Milonov's call was based on unfounded rumor.
Milonov accused the Freemasons of violating a Russian law forbidding domestic political activity by foreign and transnational organizations.
In addition to mocking Milonov, the Freemasons cited several famous historical figures among its Russian members -- including author Aleksandr Pushkin and Prince Mikhail Kutuzov, the 19th-century Russian military commander who repelled Napoleon's invasion.
Milonov, who represents a St. Petersburg district in the lower house of parliament, gained notoriety as the author of the 2013 national law outlawing "gay propaganda."
The Freemasons in Russia are led by Andrei Bogdanov, a veteran political operative who ran as a liberal candidate for president in 2008 against President Vladimir Putin's handpicked successor -- Dmitry Medvedev.
Bogdanov's unassertive 2008 campaign was widely seen as being approved by the Kremlin to give the election a veneer of competition.