By Jonny Tickle
Police officers in the Russian region of Saratov have opened a case against MP Valery Rashkin on suspicion of illegal hunting after the carcass of a moose was found in his car, along with an axe and knives with traces of blood.
Rashkin is a member of the Communist Party, Russia’s most prominent opposition faction, and is known for being outspoken in his criticism of the government and President Vladimir Putin’s administration. He has been an MP since 1999, and in recent times has become the most prominent voice of the party’s radical wing.
Although the authorities have not confirmed Rashkin’s name, a video has emerged of the MP confirming his identity to the police. He was also asked by an officer if he was drunk, which the politician denied.
“At the moment, the citizens are being checked for possible involvement in the illegal killing of the animal,” the official press service of the police revealed. This follows a complaint filed by the regional committee for hunting and fishery.
According to the authorities, shots were heard in the Lysogorsk district of Saratov Region. A policeman and representative of the hunting committee went to the scene and found a car being driven by a man born in 1955 – the same year Rashkin was born. He was with one other person, it has been reported.
“The man, who drove the car, explained that he and his companion, who was in the car as a passenger, noticed the carcass of an already-shot animal, and then decided to cut it up,” it was explained.
Rashkin was asked to take a test for drunkenness but refused. This was captured on video and released online.
The MP later commented on his arrest to RTVi, a Russian-language channel based jointly in Moscow and Long Island City, New York. Rashkin denied that he had access to a gun, claiming that he went for a walk in the woods alone and came across the dead moose. Upon finding it, he called a friend to drive to him, and they cut it up together. They were going to take the carcass to the police station, he said.
“We loaded it into the trunk and drove away, and then there was a whole horde of officers from the FSB, police, and environmental protection agencies,” he said. “We had no weapons. It was a clean car with me and my comrade in it. Now they are turning everything upside down as if I killed a moose.”
As an MP, Rashkin has immunity from prosecution. However, if parliament consents, it is possible for criminal proceedings to begin against the politician. Illegal hunting comes with a possible penalty of two years in prison.
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