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 trade.
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 for violators.
"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."
Source: The Moscow Times