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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

United Russia Deputy Complains of Kremlin Pressure

United Russia deputies are under enormous pressure from the presidential administration to approve Kremlin-backed legislation, and a senior administration official told a group of deputies last summer that they had not been popularly elected and must follow orders, United Russia Deputy Anatoly Yermolin said.

Yermolin, the first State Duma deputy in the Kremlin-controlled faction to publicly speak out against the Kremlin, made the accusations in an open letter to the Prosecutor General's Office, the Constitutional Court and Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, and he asked that he and his colleagues be protected from Kremlin harassment.

The presidential press service declined to comment Thursday.

Yermolin wrote that a senior administration official bluntly told a meeting of 15 United Russia deputies, including himself, that they could not consider themselves popularly elected representatives of the people, Kommersant reported Thursday.

"Remarks by one deputy that several [Kremlin-backed] bills had been drafted with obvious mistakes, contradicted the Constitution and could harm the faction's reputation caused unprintable swearing, advice to keep his opinion to himself, and an order to vote the way they were told," he wrote.

Yermolin refused to name the official, but Russian media identified him as Vladislav Surkov, the deputy head of the presidential administration who coordinates the Kremlin's work with United Russia and oversees the Kremlin's relations with the Duma.

Yermolin told Kommersant that at least half of the faction's deputies face similar pressure. United Russia controls the 450-seat Duma with 305 deputies,

Yermolin could not be reached for comment Thursday, but he told Interfax that he was seeking clarification as to how to protect himself from pressure and whether officials who use foul language to pressure deputies can be fired.

"I have no intention of leaving the United Russia faction ... but I intend to maintain my right to vote on certain issues the way I believe is right and not the way I'm being told from above," he said.

Some United Russia officials suggested that Yermolin has ongoing ties to embattled oil giant Yukos and this had prompted him to speak out. Yermolin participated in various education projects sponsored by Yukos during the decade before he was elected to the Duma last December.

"It is not quite clear why Yermolin decided only now to talk about events that, according to him, occurred last summer," said Lyubov Sliska, the first deputy Duma speaker and member of United Russia.