Russian parliament mulls travel ban for lawmakers

12th March 2013, Comments 0 comments

Pro-Kremlin lawmakers on Tuesday proposed banning members of parliament from travelling abroad amid spiralling tensions between Moscow and Washington about Russia's human rights record.

State Duma lower house of parliament deputy Mikhail Starshinov said the unusual restriction was necessary because lawmakers were missing important work days and even flying on state funds.

"What do we lack in today's legislation and Duma regulations that prevent us from effectively instituting this (measure)?" Starshinov asked on the private Dozhd TV channel.

"I was forced to take action."

The proposal to get the Duma speaker to authorise each foreign trip was formed in response to a trip to the United States by Dmitry Gudkov -- an opposition member who has ridiculed Russia's new ban on adoptions by US families.

Maverick Duma deputy Vladimir Zhirinovsky on Tuesday even proposed arresting Gudkov for "treason".

"You have the right to hate the (Russian) regime," said Zhirinovsky. "But the authorities, the country and the regime are here. So give up your (Duma) mandate," he urged Gudkov.

Other deputies said Gudkov and others were using the days lawmakers were assigned to visit their constituencies to attend personal business in other countries on budget money.

"The fact that Gudkov is paying a Russophobe visit to the United States is disgraceful in and of itself," Public Chamber advisory body member Georgy Fedotov told news agencies.

"But I want to know whose money he travelled on," Fedotov said. "Why should the State Duma pay for this boorish behaviour?"

Gudkov said he spent two days in the United States visiting American families who had successfully adopted Russian children.

He also spoke before the Freedom House human rights foundation about ways to fight Russian corruption.

Gudkov himself said he saw little chance of the legislation passing because so many Duma deputies owned property and illicitly ran businesses abroad -- a charge often repeated by Russia's opposition leaders.

"There will be no legislative initiative because our deputies, senators, bureaucrats and security officials have parked large sums of money in American banks," he told Russian News Service Radio.

"They have property there. Their children go to school there. And their families live there."

The Duma was torn by scandal earlier this year when anti-Kremlin campaigner Alexei Navalny disclosed how a top member of the ruling party who lobbied for the US adoptions ban in fact owned property in Florida.

The lawmaker eventually resigned after initially denying the charge. The Duma has since also mulled a measure that would bar deputies from owning property abroad.

But even some lawmakers from the United Russia party that runs the chamber for the Kremlin admitted that the travel ban might never be put in place.

"I think there is little chance that we will implement a strict ban," United Russia State Duma faction leader Vladimir Vasilyev told Moscow Echo radio.

Relations between Russia and the United States have suffered since Vladimir Putin's return to a third presidential term last May.

Putin accused Washington of financing the large street protests that preceded his election and then fought bitterly with Western countries over Moscow's refusal to sanction the Syrian regime.

But ties plunged to a new low when the United States slapped travel bans and banking limitations on Russians implicated in the death in custody of the whistleblowing attorney Sergei Magnitsky.

Russia retaliated by passing its adoptions ban and threatening other reprisal measures.

© 2013 AFP

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