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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Yet Another Senator Faces Arrest and Expulsion

Perhaps, dear reader, when you look back on the stories of how Stalin and Hitler rose to power, you think to yourself that it was a freak occurence that could never be repeated. You find it hard, in fact, to imagine how it could have transpired. Here is how (check the sidebar section under "Neo-Soviet Crackdown" for many other similar instances documented on this blog in recent days; this is only the beginning).

The Moscow Times reports that yet another Senator faces arrest and expulsion by the Kremlin while the world looked the other way:

Senator Levon Chakhmakhchyan faced expulsion from the Federation Council on Monday after security agents said they caught him with a $300,000 bribe in a sting operation.

Chakhmakhchyan was the latest politician to be targeted in what appears to largely be a jockeying for power in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election. Authorities are portraying the shakeups as a drive against corruption.

State-run television prominently broadcast footage Monday of Chakhmakhchyan, from the republic of Kalmykia, being questioned on Friday after agents from the Federal Security Service detained two associates and accused them of carrying a black briefcase containing the cash.

Chakhmakhchyan, who was at the Moscow offices of an airline with his associates, was released because of his parliamentary immunity, the Prosecutor General's Office said. Channel One television identified the airline as Transaero on Sunday.

Prosecutors said the two associates of Chakhmakhchyan had sought to blackmail a businessman to avoid a negative report on his company's activities by the Audit Chamber, the country's main financial watchdog.

Prosecutors identified the two suspects as Igor Arushanov, the chief accountant of the Association of Russian-Armenian Business Partnership, and Armen Oganesyan, an Audit Chamber official. Chakhmakhchyan is the president of the association, and Oganesyan is his son-in-law.

Chakhmakhchyan has denied wrongdoing and denounced the incident as a provocation.

Transaero spokesman Sergei Bykhal declined to comment Monday, citing the ongoing investigation.

Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov ordered the Kalmykia legislature to recall Chakh-makhchyan as its senator, council spokesman Vladimir Yeremenko said. That would strip Chakh-makhchyan of his immunity.

Kalmykia's president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, supported Mironov, saying local legislators should honor his request, Interfax reported.

A half-dozen prominent regional politicians have been forced out of office in recent weeks.

After being detained last week, Volgograd Mayor Yevgeny Ishchenko was charged Monday with abuse of office and engaging in illegal business activities.

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