‘Our man in the Duma’ faces purge as Putin critic
AS one of a handful of Russian parliamentarians who have taken part in demonstrations against Vladimir Putin, Gennady Gudkov has become known to protesters as “Our man in the Duma”.
But it could be payback time next week for the former KGB officer regarded as a turncoat by the Kremlin since he started using his seat in the Duma’s lower house to rail against Mr Putin’s ruling United Russia Party.
Mr Gudkov faces ejection in a vote on Wednesday – one of the first debates in the Duma as it returns for its autumn session – and then the threat of jail, in what he claims is a Kremlin vendetta against him and part of a broader crackdown on dissent.
He is accused of continuing business activities while an MP, an offence that carries a two-year jail sentence, but he insisted: “The people in power are taking revenge for my opposition activity. I am sure this is only the beginning.”
Mr Gudkov, 56, whose son Dmitry, 36, also has a seat in the Duma, was first elected in 2001 and is now in his fourth term.
United Russia holds 238 of the Duma’s 450 seats, so even though the 64 members of MrGudkov’s Just Russia party may be joined by 92 Communists in opposing his removal, they have little chance of success.
Ejecting him from the Duma would deprive him of immunity and enable the authorities to prosecute him over allegations of illegal business activity he and his son insist are unfounded and part of a campaign of harassment. Mr Gudkov said the Kremlin has adopted tougher tactics since Mr Putin returned to the presidency in May to face the biggest protests since he first came to power in 2000.
“It shows that Kremlin hardliners, who will not negotiate with protesters or conduct dialogue with society, have won out,” Mr Gudkov said in an interview in his Duma office.
Just a year ago, Mr Gudkov would have seemed an unlikely target for the Kremlin’s ire.
Like Mr Putin, Gudkov served in the KGB in the Soviet era. He is a reserve colonel of the Russian FSB, the KGB successor agency Mr Putin headed during his swift rise in the late 1990s.
For years Mr Gudkov was little but a cog in Mr Putin’s system, despite his moderate criticism of the Kremlin but he broke ranks last November. Taking the floor for a searing speech, he warned United Russia that voters would take to the streets if they felt it had rigged the 4 December parliamentary election.
The speech proved prescient. Tens of thousands of people packed an icy Moscow embankment days after the election for one of Russia’s biggest protests since the early 1990s, angered by suspicions of fraud and dismayed by Mr Putin’s plan to return to the Kremlin after four years as prime minister.
Last month, the federal Investigative Committee – which answers to Mr Putin – said there was evidence Mr Gudkov had broken the law by co-owning and managing a construction materials market and allegedly earning from a textile firm.
“If he stays this course, I don’t think Putin has a mandate for the next six years because all the current calm in Russia today is based on two factors: society’s passiveness, which is fading very fast, and huge profits from oil and gas,” warned Mr Gudkov.
“These are very shaky criteria for the stability of the political system. Very shaky.”
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 25 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: North east