Russian lawmaker charged with killing elk, alleges politics

MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian lawmaker from the Communist Party has been charged with illegal hunting for killing an elk, his lawyer told reporters Monday.

Kremlin critic Valery Rashkin, 66, a Communist Party deputy in the lower house of Russia’s parliament, was arrested in October after police said they found an elk carcass in the trunk of Rashkin’s vehicle when he didn’t have a hunting license.

Rashkin, who at first denied shooting the elk, admitted killing an animal but said he was not breaking the law, as far as he was aware.

Russia’s top investigative body asked a court to impose a curfew on Rashkin that prohibits him from leaving home from 11:00 p.m. to 07:00 a.m. Rashkin also won’t be allowed to communicate with others implicated in the case, defense lawyer Konstantin Lazarev told Russian state news RIA Novosti.

Rashkin was stripped of his parliamentary immunity last month amid the pending charges. If convicted, the lawmaker could face a fine of up to 1 million rubles ($13,615) and up to five years in prison.

Rashkin also faces administrative charges for allegedly driving while intoxicated and refusing to undergo a medical examination while emitting a “pungent smell of alcohol,” according to Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov.

Some Russian media alleged that Rashkin faced charges due to his frequent criticism of the Kremlin and his support for jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the most high-profile critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In September, Rashkin was among several Communist Party members who vociferously protested alleged online voting fraud in Moscow during Russia’s parliamentary and local elections.

Speaking to lawmakers Thursday, Rashkin alleged the case against him was politically motivated and he was being prosecuted for his “fight for honest elections that vexed the authorities.”

Krasnov, the prosecutor general, denied a political motivation for the charges.

The Communist Party is nominally in opposition to the Kremlin, but it votes in line with its wishes on key policy issues. Some observers alleged that Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov could have quietly backed the charges against Rashkin, whom he sees as a destabilizing figure.

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