MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian lawmaker suspected of involvement in two killings was detained on Wednesday at parliament in front of stunned members of the upper house after he tried to escape but was stopped by the speaker.
Rauf Arashukov, 32, who represents the Karachaevo-Cherkessiya region in the North Caucasus, was detained Wednesday morning after the upper house voted to strip him of immunity from prosecution. Russia’s Prosecutor General and the head of the Investigative Committee that deals with high-profile crimes attended the immunity vote.
Arashukov is suspected of orchestrating the killing of a well-known activist and an adviser to the leader of Karachaevo-Cherkessiya in 2010. Russian news website RBC last year quoted investigation sources as saying that three people testified against the lawmaker, accusing him of ordering the killing of local activist Aslan Zhukov, who was fatally shot outside his house. The man’s sister last year publicly came forward against Arashukov.
Arashukov, the son of a prominent businessman, was nominated by the local legislature to serve in the Russian upper house, the Federation Council, in 2016 to become its youngest member.
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The house speaker, Valentina Matvienko, said that Arashukov tried to walk out of the hall while the deputies were discussing a motion to strip him of immunity from prosecution.
“He tried to get up and leave the session, and I told him to sit down because he was supposed to speak and give an explanation — and he went back,” Matvienko said in televised comments.
Lawmaker Sergei Kalashnikov, who was there when security officers detained Arashukov, said that no one was expecting it to happen.
“That was a complete surprise to everyone including the suspect who was late for the session,” Kalashnikov told the Interfax news agency.
Moscow’s Basmanny District Court later ordered that Arashukov should remain in custody pending the criminal probe, rejecting the defense’s plea to put him under house arrest or allow bail. Prosecutors argued that he could flee abroad.
Arashukov smiled and looked relaxed and he sat in the courtroom while masked agents of the Federal Security Service stood by. His lawyer said he was pleading not guilty to the charges.
Later on Wednesday, investigators announced that Arashukov’s father, Raul, who is a top manager at gas company Gazprom, has been detained on suspicion of embezzling 30 billion rubles’ ($455 million) worth of gas supplies. They also said that they’re searching homes and offices in seven towns in connection with various investigations regarding the father and son.