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The Russian Parliament's Golden Gun

Image mixed by Kevin Rothrock.

Image mixed by Kevin Rothrock.

Former speaker of Russia's parliament Boris Gryzlov once declared [ru] that the Duma isn't a place for “waging political battles.” Considering the managed and artificial political parties that have dominated Russia's legislature for the last decade, Gryzlov had a point. Russia's real political battles are fought in the Kremlin and the federal ministries, where various clans and cliques compete for control and influence over the levers of the government. This, however, is not to say that conflict is absent altogether in the Duma. For instance, last Tuesday, December 3, 2013, two deputies demonstrated that the Duma still has some fight left it in, when they got into a fistfight in the halls of the parliament building.

The cause of the fight remains unclear, as the two opponents tell different stories. Deputy Alexey Zhuravlyov alleged that the brawl began when his colleague, Adam Delimkhanov, confronted him about a new monument honoring Chechen women killed by Russian imperial troops in the 19th century [see previous Global Voices article]. (Zhuravlyov has complained about the project, asking [ru] Russia's Prosecutor General to investigate Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov for inciting separatism.) Delimkhanov threw the first punch, according to Zhuravlyov’s spokeswoman. The scuffle only ended when a gold-plated gun fell out of Delimkhanov’s clothing. Neither Delimkhanov nor his office would comment on Zhuravlyov’s accusations.

Alexey Navalny posted the story on his blog, and noted [ru]:

Эта ГосДума должна быть распущена. Часть депутатов должна быть отдана под суд, часть – в цирк, часть – в поликлинику (на опыты).

This Duma should be disbanded. Some deputies should be put on trial, some in the circus, and some in a clinic (for tests).

Blogger Valery Amirov alleged [ru] that Delimkhanov had planned the encounter to take place in a location where there were no closed-circuit cameras.

One of Amirov’s readers commented:

На улице гопник с кавказа поведением ни чем не отличается от “своего” депутата, один в один, ни культуры, ни разума. Отсюда вопрос можно ли их допускать в общество нормальных людей, если даже депутат “кавказец” по сути обыкновенное быдло.

The behavior of this deputy [Delimkhanov] is no different from any Kavkaz hood. They're one in the same—neither has any culture or brains. So the question is whether a society of normal people can tolerate them, when even the Caucasians’ Duma deputy is really just a typical thug.

Alfred Koch joked:

Я думаю, депутаты должны стреляться. В прямом эфире. У Соловьева в “Поединке”. Почему? Ну, во-первых, это красиво…

I think that the deputies should duel. On live television. On Soloviyev’s [TV show] “Duel.” Why? Well, firstly, it is beautiful…

Vladimir Varfolomeev also thought a duel was in order:

Deputies Delimkhanov and Zhuraleov should hold a real duel. At 20 paces. Whoever wins can remain in the Duma. This will be fair.

Meanwhile, Kirill Shulika (LJ's Viking_Nord) saw the incident as just another example of the Kremlin giving Kadyrov’s people “a free pass”:

Если Журавлев говорит правду, а, скорее всего, так оно и есть, то Делимханов должен был немедленно лишен полномочий депутата. А Кремлю, который пестует всю эту шпану, надо задуматься. Она свои порядки устанавливает не только в Грозном, а даже уже в здании российского парламента. Если сойдет им это с рук, завтра они всех женщин в Думе в хиджабы оденут.

If Zhuravliev is telling the truth (and most likely he is), then Delimkhanov should be stripped of his powers as a deputy immediately. And the Kremlin, which supports all these riffraff, needs to rethink it. They [Caucasians] live by their own rules not only in Grozny, but even in the halls of the Russian parliament. If they get away with it, tomorrow they will have all the women in the Duma in hijabs.

Shulika may be exaggerating, but his concerns reflect common apprehensions in Russia about Kadyrov's influence. Russians increasingly fear that Kadyrov and his cronies have been given a free pass by the Kremlin to do whatever they please, both in Chechnya and throughout the country. And every time a Chechen state official looks to be flaunting the law with impunity, popular resentments spike. How much longer can the Kremlin turn a blind eye to these incidents without a backlash that crosses some critical threshold?

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