The Russian Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by ex-parliamentary deputy Ilya Ponomaryov, who argued that his 2016 ousting from the Lower House for regularly missing sessions and failure to perform other work was discriminatory.
In his appeal, the ex-MP asked the Supreme Court to overturn the decision of a regional court recognizing as lawful the State Duma decision ordering him to be relieved of his duties as Lower House deputy, after he failed to execute his responsibilities as a lawmaker for 30 days or more. The bill allowing this was passed into law in April 2016 and Ponomaryov’s ousting took place in June of the same year. He became the first Russian MP to lose his seat due to slacking.
However, the State Duma decision concerning Ponomaryov was preceded by a major corruption scandal that had become the main reason behind his inability to properly perform as a lawmaker.
In mid-2014, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office charged Ilya Ponomaryov – back then a Lower House MP representing the leftist opposition party Fair Russia – with complicity in the 2013 graft scheme at the state-sponsored center for innovation and technology, Skolkovo.
According to investigators, Skolkovo Vice President Aleksey Beltyukov paid Ponomaryov about $750,000 for 10 lectures and one research paper. The MP received the fees, but either failed to complete the work or executed it very poorly. He pleaded not guilty, saying that the fees were fair and proportionate to the amount of work done.
The probe and subsequent court hearings proved these allegations to be true. Beltyukov lost his post, but Ponomaryov was not initially prosecuted because of his parliamentary immunity, and was only ordered to return the money.
Prosecutors pressed charges in absentia against Ponomaryov, who left Russia in 2014 for the United States, and resided there, telling reporters that he had no intention of returning to Russia, as that would be tantamount to voluntarily going to prison. It was this reluctance to return that eventually got him ousted from the State Duma in April 2015.
In June 2016, the fugitive ex-MP filed a complaint, claiming that the law allowing him to be deprived of his seat was unconstitutional. The court disagreed and ordered him to drop the appeal.