Russian MP denies illegal hunting after shot elk found in car

Police say Communist party’s Valery Rashkin claimed to have found animal after it had been killed

Valery Rashkin at a protest in Moscow Valery Rashkin at a protest in Moscow over preliminary results in the parliamentary elections last month. Photograph: Shamil Zhumatov/ReutersValery Rashkin at a protest in Moscow over preliminary results in the parliamentary elections last month. Photograph: Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters

in Moscow

An MP with Russia’s opposition Communist party is under investigation for allegedly hunting without a licence after police found the dismembered remains of an elk in the boot of his car.

Valery Rashkin confirmed to local media that he was stopped by police while driving in Russia’s Saratov region with the elk carcass in his trunk but said he and a travel companion did not shoot the elk and had planned to report the animal’s death to police.

“They’re turning everything upside down as though I killed the elk,” Rashkin told the independent broadcaster RTVI on Friday. “I believe this is a provocation.”

Saratov police said they were responding to reports of shots fired in the area when they stopped Rashkin’s car and found two knives with traces of blood and an axe in the car. A police statement said Rashkin and his companion claimed to have found the animal after it had been shot.

The police statement said a criminal case has been opened for hunting without a licence. It claimed that Rashkin refused to undergo a medical examination for drink-driving, a charge he has denied. A video leaked to several pro-Kremlin news agencies showed the MP looking unsteady as he was questioned by police.

Rashkin was one of several Communist candidates to publicly protest against the results of Russia’s recent parliamentary elections. The ruling United Russia party retained a two-thirds supermajority amid accusations of voter fraud and persecution of top Kremlin critics before the September vote.

Rashkin, the first secretary of the Russian Communist party in Moscow, held a rally with other opposition candidates after the elections, claiming that the government had manipulated an electronic voting scheme to give thousands of votes to preferred candidates before polls closed.

The protests put him at odds with the leadership of the Communist party, including its head, Gennady Zyuganov, who has been careful in his criticism of Vladimir Putin and has been derided for giving the party the role of “pocket opposition”. Rashkin has also spoken out in support of Alexei Navalny, the opposition politician who was jailed this year after surviving a poisoning attempt on his life.

Russian police raided the Communist party headquarters in Moscow and arrested supporters of Rashkin and Mikhail Lobanov, another Communist candidate, before further protests planned at the beginning of this month. The Communists cancelled the rallies as a result.

Rashkin has been an MP since 1999. Russian MPs have immunity from prosecution but lawmakers can be stripped of that privilege by a parliamentary vote. His fellow lawmakers could also strip him of his posting in the Duma if he is found guilty of hunting without a licence, a crime that carries a sentence of up to two years in prison.


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