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The lower house of the Russian parliament on Thursday stripped a lawmaker critical of the Kremlin of his immunity, allowing prosecutors to press charges against him for the allegedly unlawful murder of a moose while on a hunting trip.

Valery Rashkin, 66, initially denied the charges but later changed course and admitted to the murder. He insisted, however, that he did not know he was breaking the law and described the case against him as politically motivated.

The State Duma voted 341-55 to remove Rashkin from his immunity. Rashkin, who will retain his seat in parliament pending investigation, faces a fine or jail term of up to five years if convicted.

Some Russian media have alleged that Rashkin, a member of the Communist Party, was indicted because of his frequent criticism of the Kremlin and his support for jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the most prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin .

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

Speaking to lawmakers on Thursday, Rashkin accused the case against him was politically motivated, saying the real reason for his prosecution was his “fight for an honest election that upset the authorities.”

Russian Attorney General Igor Krasnov has denied any political motivation behind this case.

The Communist Party is nominally opposed to the Kremlin, but it votes according to its wishes on key political issues. Some observers have alleged that Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov could have quietly supported the charges against Rashkin, whom he sees as a destabilizing figure.


The Independent Gt

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