Meet the one Russian lawmaker who voted against making Crimea part of Russia


Russian lawmaker Ilya Ponomarev has referred to Putin's supporters in the United Russia party as "swindlers and thieves." (Andrey Smirnov/AFP/Getty Images)

On Thursday, Russia's State Duma voted in favor of Crimea becoming part of Russia. The move has already been agreed on by President Vladimir Putin and Crimean leaders, and now it only requires the upper house of Russia's legislature, the Federation Council, to approve it.

The Duma's vote was widely seen as a rubber stamp after Putin's approval; Reuters reports that in the almost-full assembly, 443 deputies voted in favor of Crimea joining Russia.

But how many didn't vote in favor? Just one.

That one person was Ilya Ponomarev, the State Duma representative from Novosibirsk.

As you can probably guess, Ponomarev isn't a huge fan of Putin. He's a member of A Just Russia, a group opposed to Putin and Kremlin policies, and he has referred to Putin's supporters in the United Russia party as "swindlers and thieves," a damning phrase made famous by opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Ponomarev was a prominent leader in the anti-Putin protests that emerged after the disputed Duma elections in December 2011. He also performed the Duma's first filibusterer in Putin's time as leader. And he has even been accused of dressing too sloppily for an elected official.

Russian authorities haven't taken to Ponomarev's actions too kindly. They've raided the apartment of his assistant and voted to bar Ponomarev from speaking in the Duma for one month after his "swindlers and thieves" comment. He recently denied reports that he had entered a law in the Duma that sought to ban anti-Russian ("Russophobia") propaganda, instead calling it a "provocation" apparently organized by someone else.

So, you shouldn't be too surprised that Ponomarev didn't support the vote, and don't be too surprised that not everyone is reacting well after his refusal. After Ponomarev tweeted a link to a statement he made on the VK social network explaining his vote (he called Russia's moves a "political mistake" and his own vote "against war"), the response from Twitter users wasn't so positive. One suggested that 99 percent of the population now want to "crucify him."

The process of annexing Crimea is complete Friday after Russian President Vladi­mir Putin signed the law passed unanimously by the upper house of parliament. (Reuters)
Adam Taylor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. Originally from London, he studied at the University of Manchester and Columbia University.
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Adam Taylor · March 19