MOSCOW — Russia’s parliament on Friday took the rare step of expelling one of its members, a veteran lawmaker and former KGB officer who last year crossed a political line in the sand when he joined crowds calling for the ouster of President Vladimir Putin.
The legislator, Gennadi Gudkov, was stripped of his mandate because he was accused of operating a business while holding office, which violates Russian law. The political context, however, left little doubt that the move was driven by Gudkov’s support for the opposition and his role as a link between street activists and dissenters within the government.
Though Russian authorities have brought charges against many political activists this summer, Gudkov, 56, is the first insider to be sanctioned in this way. A blustery, rumpled populist in the vein of Boris Yeltsin, the former president, he used his last moments on the floor of the Duma to address Putin.
“Why is the most important person in the state, the president and guarantor of the Constitution, silent today?" he asked. “Does he approve of what is going on at the Duma? Does he understand what a dangerous precedent the country is creating? Does he understand what a dangerous Pandora’s box we are opening here, now, on the 14th of September of this year?"
“And if he keeps silent?" Gudkov said. “That means he approves of it."
Within hours of the Duma’s vote Friday, a spokesman for Russia’s Investigative Committee said the authorities were considering opening a criminal case against Gudkov, who no longer has immunity. The spokesman, Vladimir Markin, said a final decision would be made in the next two weeks.
Gudkov has denied violating the law, which allows lawmakers to earn money from family businesses but not to serve in a management capacity.