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Russian Communist politician and YouTube star Bondarenko accused of violating corruption laws after attending Navalny protest

Russian Communist politician and YouTube star Bondarenko accused of violating corruption laws after attending Navalny protest
A Russian MP who attended a protest supporting opposition figure Alexey Navalny has been accused of breaking corruption laws after monetizing his YouTube channel. He says he is being targeted to stop him from running in elections.

Nikolay Bondarenko, a Communist politician in the Saratov regional parliament, around 700km southeast of Moscow, runs a channel called ‘Diary of an MP’, which has over one million subscribers. Some of his videos have garnered multiple millions of views, including one titled ‘A fight in Parliament. I was beaten by United Russia deputies. The truth hurts scumbags’.

In September, he plans to run against Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, a key ally of President Vladimir Putin, in the upcoming parliamentary election.

Earlier this week, he was detained after attending an unsanctioned rally in support of opposition figure Alexey Navalny and was subsequently fined 20,000 rubles ($270). Now, he is being accused of corruption.

On Tuesday, the Saratov Regional Duma Commission on Income declared that Bondarenko violated anti-corruption legislation by receiving income from his YouTube channel.

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“A deputy or civil servant has no right to use his position to obtain income. In particular – receiving royalties for their publications and speeches,” said Alexei Antonov, head of the commission. “We are talking here about donations, sponsorship money, advertising income that deputy-blogger Nikolai Bondarenko receives for his YouTube channel.”

“The Communist Party perceives this as an attempt to either deprive Nikolay of his deputy credentials, prevent him from running for the State Duma, or to put moral pressure on him,” a statement on the party website said in response.

Speaking to Moscow newspaper RBC, Bondarenko described the charges against him as politically motivated.

“They are deciding to deprive me of my mandate, disqualify me from Duma elections, and declare me a corrupt official,” he said. “This is absurd.”

On Tuesday, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said that the authorities arrested Bondarenko after being “dumbfounded by the pressure of dirty Navalnyites.”

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