Russian Lawmaker Arrested During Parliament Session In Murder Probe

A Russian ruling-party lawmaker has been arrested in parliament and charged with murder by authorities who suspect he was behind two high-profile contract killings in the North Caucasus region of Karachai-Cherkessia in 2010.

Rauf Arashukov was taken into custody at a session of the Federation Council, the Russian parliament's upper chamber, on January 30 after lawmakers agreed to strip him of his immunity from prosecution. Media reports said his father, Raul Arashukov, was detained in St. Petersburg later in the day on separate charges.

The younger Arashukov, 32, was handcuffed and taken to Investigative Committee headquarters, where he was charged with murder, participation in a "criminal community," and witness-tampering, according to a committee statement.

It said he was suspected of involvement in the 2010 killings of Fral Shebzukhov, an adviser to the leader of Karachai-Cherkessia at the time, and Aslan Zhukov, the deputy chairman of a youth movement in the mostly Muslim region, the committee said. Both victims were shot; Shebzukov was also beaten with a baseball bat.

Arashukov is also suspected of pressuring a witness in the Zhukov case.

Later on January 30, a Moscow court ordered Arashukov held in pretrial detention through March 30, although his lawyers had asked the Basmanny District Court to release him on bail or put him under house arrest.

Accounts from lawmakers in Russian media suggested Arashukov's arrest played out with a measure of drama: The morning session of the Federation Council in central Moscow was abruptly closed to the media and entry to the chamber was blocked by Federal Guards Service officers.

Apparently taken by surprise, Arashukov started to walk up the steps between rows of seats in the chamber after the Investigative Committee chief read out the order stripping him of immunity, but stopped after the "icy voice" of Federation Council speaker Valentina Mativiyeno urged him to give in, RBC reported.

"He tried to walk upstairs and leave the session. I told him to sit down in his seat," Matviyenko told journalists later. She said that she told him that the rules gave him the right to comment about the matter but that he declined.

A video released by the Investigative Committee showed Arashukov, in handcuffs, being brought to its headquarters for questioning.