New bill proposes ousting MPs for lengthy foreign trips without valid reasons

RIA Novosti/Maksim Blinov
A Communist Party MP has submitted a bill that, once passed, would make it possible to strip lawmakers of their parliamentary seats for staying abroad for over a month without offering a good excuse.

The draft document lists possible reasons for long foreign trips as “illness, an official assignment or other force-majeure circumstances such as the need to take care of sick family members.”

The author of the motion, Ivan Nikitchuk, told Interfax that some lawmakers’ lengthy stay outside Russian borders not only increased government expenditure but also undermined Russia’s authority. In Nikitchuk’s view, “people’s deputies who choose to reside permanently in foreign states are adding to Russia’s negative image.”

The lawmaker also noted that the bill had two particular targets – a pair of MPs representing the Fair Russia center-left political party, who stayed abroad for over six months and could not perform their parliamentary functions. “The suggested move would prevent similar moves of other legislators who want to live double lives,” he added.

Nikitchuk did not give any names, but the MPs who fall under his description are Ilya Ponomaryov and Aleksey Mitrofanov. Both were involved in scandals last year but retained parliamentary immunity. Ponomaryov was found guilty of receiving large fees from the state-run innovation hub Skolkovo for a set of lectures he failed to deliver in full. Mitrofanov is reportedly suspected of participation in an extortion and embezzlement scheme.

READ MORE: Skolkovo vice president suspended over graft case

In 2013, Russian authorities introduced the law “On Civil Servants’ Foreign Assets” that banned members of parliament, senior officials, top managers of state corporations and the Russian Central Bank from holding accounts in foreign banks and owning securities in foreign companies. The restriction also extends to these people’s spouses and underage children.

The initial draft of the asset ban included real estate, but MPs erased this during the debate procedure saying that many Russian officials have possessed country homes, apartments, and land in neighboring countries since Soviet times, and making them sever these ties would be unjust.

However, in March 2014, United Russia, which has a majority in parliament, suggested amending the “Foreign Assets Law” with a ban on foreign real estate, claiming such a move would make the country less vulnerable to outside pressure and threats of sanctions. The amendment has not been drafted yet.