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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Deputy's Murder Shakes Duma

A second deputy of the State Duma has been brutally murdered, renewing parliament's despair over the decline of law and order in Russia and bringing fresh calls for removal of the interior minister.


Valentin Martemyanov, 62, died Saturday from wounds sustained last week during a savage beating barely steps from his home in eastern Moscow, said police spokesman Yevgeny Merkushev. A member of the Communist faction and a distinguished legal scholar, Martemyanov was found last Tuesday by neighbors on Malaya Semyonovskaya Ulitsa with severe head injuries.


"He was quickly hospitalized but died without recovering consciousness," Merkushev said. "We cannot say now whether it was an attack or just an accident."


Neither can Martemyanov's colleagues, who wandered the halls of the Duma on Tuesday in a state of shock. While some saw no purpose or sense in his death, others saw the mark of a political murder.


"He is just another victim of criminal lawlessness. We're losing control of this country," said Valentin Kuptsov, deputy chairman of the Communist faction. "When they kill you 15 meters from your house, nobody knows who is going to be next. We're all becoming victims."


Behind another door lay another opinion. "I think it was political. How else could it be?" said one deputy who did not want to be named. "He was 62 years old. He had no car. He wasn't wealthy. He was a very active political figure. And he was very unhappy with the current system."


In a prepared statement, Gennady Zyuganov, head of the communist faction, called the murder a "gangster attack."


"The tragic death of our comrade is not accidental," he said. "It is a direct consequence of the uncontrollable crime rate, lawlessness and chaos in society."


The Duma lost another of its colleagues on April 26, when Andrei Aizderdzis, a deputy and banker, was shot dead by an unidentified killer as he entered his apartment block. Deputies quickly clamored for the resignation of Viktor Yerin, Minister of Internal Affairs, and won a resolution seeking his dismissal. The recommendation did not, however, carry the force of law, and went no further. Six suspects have recently been arrested in connection with Aizderdzis' death, though police say two more suspects are at large.


Deputies described Martemyanov as a learned man, an example to youth and a staunch supporter of the Communist tradition since joining the Party in 1958. On the seventh floor of the State Duma, where the communist faction keeps its offices, his portrait was draped with black crepe and a narrow red ribbon. A small bouquet of red carnations partially obscured telegrams and letters of sympathy from friends and colleagues.


"There were thousands of voters behind him. The people chose him," said Omar Begov, a fellow communist deputy from Dagestan. "These have been difficult days for us. We've lost a friend, an old friend."The Duma Council announced Tuesday that Wednesday's plenary session would be postponed until the afternoon to allow lawmakers to attend Martemyanov's funeral at Troyekurovskoye Cemetery. When business resumes, communist deputies will demand Yerin's removal.


"Of course we're going to demand his resignation," Kuptsov said. "But we are going to pose a wider question. We have to create a whole new system of safety in this country."


Kuptsov said that in recent years Internal Affairs has ballooned to twice its previous size but has not increased its anti-crime forces. At a peaceful demonstration Monday marking the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, Kuptsov said "riot police were bumping into each other" rather than fighting crime.


A spokesman for Yerin said he was aware that deputies might debate his removal, and he said the minister would address the Duma on Thursday to report on the national fight against crime.


Though colleagues across the Duma's political spectrum loudly condemned Martemyanov's murder, few non-communists were expected to support moves to remove Yerin. Sergei Yushenkov, chairman of the parliamentary committee on defense and a member of the Russia's Choice faction, said "it will scarcely be possible to put Yerin's removal on the agenda. We will not support this demand," he said.


Thursday's session could prove boisterous nonetheless. Viktor Ilyukhin, chairman of the parliamentary committee on security and a member of the communist faction, said his group would demand that Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, the heads of federal law enforcement agencies and members of parliament's upper chamber meet the Duma on Thursday.


"We're not only going to ask them about Martemyanov's death, but we are also going to ask them how to establish elementary order in the country," Ilyukhin said. "The crime rate has become problem number one for this country."


It also would not hurt to establish a special unit to protect deputies, he added: "The State Duma building is completely unprotected from hooligans who can come inside with a knife, an axe or a gun."