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Russian Lawmaker Arrested in Session for Links to Hired Killers

The Associated Press
AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin
JOHN HAYWARD

Russian lawmaker Rauf Arashukov was arrested in the middle of a parliamentary session on Wednesday to face organized crime charges, including links to two politically-motivated contract killings.

The UK Guardian painted a dramatic picture of Arashukov’s arrest during a session of the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament:

When Arashukov arrived for a regular session of parliament, the house speaker abruptly announced the session closed to the press. Then a vote was announced to relieve Arashukov of his parliamentary immunity to allow him to be charged for murder.

Arashukov attempted to flee through the parliament gallery, but then surrendered to law enforcement, who came to the building to arrest him. He pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges later on Wednesday.

Senators are generally protected by immunity and Arashukov’s colleagues had to agree to his arrest during an extraordinary session of the legislative body. Reports from the courtroom said Arashukov tried to escape the chamber via the balcony while being told to “sit down” by the chairwoman of the Federation Council, often called Russia’s senate.

Federation Council speaker Valentina Matviyenko confirmed Arashukov attempted to flee the chamber when his impending arrest was announced.

“He tried to get upstairs and out of the session. I told him to sit in his place, because according to current rules, he has the right to speak and give an explanation,” she told reporters.

Arashukov, 32, represents the Karachay-Cherkessia Republic in the North Caucasus Federal District. Most residents of the area speak a regional Turkic dialect and, while they are generally also fluent in Russian, Arashukov requested an interpreter during his interrogation by Russian police. Colleagues have challenged his claim of poor Russian language skills, saying he speaks “grammatical and clean” Russian during committee meetings.

The charges against Arashukov concern his alleged involvement with organized crime and his role in the murders of political activist Aslan Zhukov and government adviser Fral Shebkhuzov in 2010.

Police suspect his father Raul of involvement with the same organized crime ring and is under investigation for the murder of a businessman in the 1990s, as well as allegedly embezzling $455 million worth of goods from Russia’s Gazprom gas company, where he held a branch management position. The scheme purportedly involved procuring more gas than Arashukov’s area of responsibility required and selling the surplus to black marketeers. Rauf’s cousin Ruslan Arashukov has also been detained as part of the investigation.

Zhukov was gunned down near his home in what investigators originally saw as a crime of passion by a man who claimed he was jealous of a woman’s affection for the activist. Police dismissed the confession in 2016 when a different man confessed to killing Zhukov and later claimed Rauf Arashukov paid him a million rubles (about $14,000 U.S.) for the deed. Zhukov was the leader of a youth movement called Adyge-Khase, which is essentially an ethnic separatist movement known for criticizing corrupt regional government.

Shebkhuzov was an adviser to the Karachay-Cherkessian president killed later in 2010. One of his assailants has stated he was part of a goon squad hired to intimidate Shebkhuzov by beating him up, but the encounter escalated and resulted in his death.

Some have alleged Rauf Arashukov’s involvement in both killings openly since September of this year, making his arrest surprising primarily because of the setting and his attempt to flee. His defenders believe Russian authorities have framed him on murder and corruption charges. The investigation of the Arashukov family’s organized crime activities has expanded over several towns and cities and includes at least four murder allegations.  

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