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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Eyes Marshals to Break Up Fights

Embarrassed by a brawl between deputies last month, the State Duma's leadership wants marshals to maintain order in the parliament's main hall and physically restrain rowdy deputies if necessary.

The Duma Council, which comprises heads of the four Duma factions and the speaker and his deputy, asked the head of the Duma Management Committee, Oleg Kovalyov, to spearhead legislation to create the marshals service on Wednesday. Kovalyov promptly agreed.

"Marshals should be intelligent and physically fit. The marshals' mission will be to break up fights," Kovalyov said in announcing the plan at a news conference Wednesday.

Kovalyov will need to draft a raft of amendments to current laws, including the law on the status of deputies, so that marshals would have permission to sidestep the immunity enjoyed by federal legislators and use force.

Kovalyov, a member of United Russia, promised to have the amendments ready in time for the start of the Duma's fall session in September.

However, Duma Speaker and United Russia leader Boris Gryzlov -- who was noticeably absent from the Duma Council's meeting Wednesday -- was quick to disapprove of the idea. "This is the [Management] Committee's initiative. I think that deputies should resolve conflicts by themselves," Gryzlov told Interfax.

On March 30, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party, charged at a member of the nationalist Rodina faction, Andrei Savelyev. Savelyev suffered a bloody nose, while Zhirinovsky claimed to have suffered a concussion.

Zhirinovsky, who has participated in almost all of the 11 fights that have broken out in the post-Soviet parliament, said marshals were an unnecessary expense because fights are so rare. "Each marshals would probably have to be paid a lavish salary of about 20,000 rubles per month. In a year, over a million would be spent on who knows what," Zhirinovsky said in comments published Thursday in Kommersant.

Savelyev called it the idea "idiotic" and suggested that if marshals were introduced, one would always have to be on duty near Zhirinovsky's seat.

"Even with a marshal by his side, Zhirinovsky will always have time to start a scene and to insult someone," Savelyev said by telephone.

Federal prosecutors are reviewing the March 30 brawl after Savelyev filed a complaint. However, they cannot initiate criminal proceedings against Zhirinovsky unless the Duma agrees to suspend his immunity.

The Federal Guard Service currently maintains security at the Duma building, but no one other than lawmakers and their aides is allowed into the main hall.

Marshals have served the French and British parliaments for centuries. They also maintained order in the Duma before the 1917 Revolution.