A group of United Russia lawmakers have accused a colleague, world chess champion
Anatoly Karpov, of lobbying on behalf of a tobacco company, and they asked the
Justice Ministry to see whether he can be labeled a foreign agent.
The attack against Karpov is seen as part of a smouldering conflict between
lobbyists, as anti-smoking legislation is pending in the State Duma, experts
said. The country's $22 billion tobacco market is currently the second-largest
in the world, surpassed only by China.
Several Duma deputies, including ones from United Russia, stated in a letter
to the ministry that the charitable foundation Peace and Harmony, co-founded
by Karpov, is a partner of Japan Tobacco International, one of the three largest
tobacco companies in Russia. The move was prompted by a proposal by Karpov to
exclude an article from the anti-smoking bill that addresses the illegal tobacco
The anti-tobacco bill, which passed in first reading, is seen as one of the
strongest government attempts to curb rampant smoking in the country. It will
affect 44 million citizens, or a third of the population. About 400,000 people
die annually from smoking related diseases, according to government figures.
The law would ban smoking in most public places and introduce tough punishments
"The point of our collective letter is to check whether a deputy's foundation
is a foreign agent," United Russia deputy Alyona Arshinova told Izvestia
Monday. Arshinova was referring to a controversial new law that obliges any
organization receiving foreign grants and engaging in political activity to
register as a foreign agent. The law was mainly aimed at human rights organizations
that have voiced opposition to the Kremlin.
Anatoly Vereshagin, communication director for Japan Tobacco International,
said his company works with one of the partners of Karpov's foundation, which
is not prohibited by the legislation. Karpov was not available for comment Monday.
Karpov, a senior deputy who sits on the Economic Policy Committee, told Izvestia
his colleagues' reaction to his proposed amendment was "overheated."