Duma Distressed by Pharmacy's Removal

There was a time that a State Duma deputy suffering from a bout of stress or the sniffles could pick up sedatives or aspirin without having to leave work.

But several Duma deputies are up in arms after a small kiosk selling pharmaceuticals was removed from the Duma's premises last month.

"The pharmaceutical stand should be reopened," Communist deputy Aleftina Aparina told a Duma session Wednesday, Interfax reported. "It has operated for so many years, and it is unclear why it was shut down."

Numerous Duma deputies and their aides had grown accustomed to buying their medicines there, Aparina said.

"The most important thing was that quality was guaranteed," Aparina said in a reference to reports of widespread counterfeit drugs at Russian pharmacies.

Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said he would speak with the Kremlin Property Department, which is responsible for managing all kiosks operating in the Duma, about reopening the small pharmacy -- "so that they give us our stand back," Interfax reported.

"They didn't touch the kiosk selling alcohol," Aparina added.

A Kremlin Property Department spokesman declined to comment Wednesday.

Speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, an aide to one Duma deputy said it was quite convenient to have the drug stand on the premises.

"When you felt you were getting sick, you didn't need to go outside to look for a pharmacy," the aide said. "The stand was small but well-stocked. You could find anything you needed."

Asked whether Duma deputies buy alcohol while at work, the aide laughed and said they did "sometimes to fight stress."

"Everyone does, and deputies are human beings like everyone else," he said.

Beside alcohol, goods on sale at the Duma include jewelry, water filters, books and newspapers, and Chinese and Japanese teas. The Duma has also a food shop -- where one can buy caviar and cured meats -- a cafeteria and a restaurant.

Deputies also have access to a private bar and a gym.

In 2004, silverware -- up to 12 teaspoons per week -- began mysteriously disappearing from the Duma cafeteria. As it turned out, deputies had apparently been taking them along with cups of ice cream and forgetting to return them.