Ponomarev at the 2012 Horasis Global Russia Business Meeting
|Member of the State Duma|
24 December 2011 – 10 June 2016
6 August 1975|
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union (now Moscow, Russia)
|Political party||Left Front, Communist Party of Russia, A Just Russia|
|Known for||Work with Skolkovo Foundation and hi-tech parks; vote against annexation of Crimea and position against war in Ukraine; participation in protest movement in Russia|
Early life and education
Ponomarev was born in Moscow. He holds a BSc in Physics from Moscow State University and a Master of Public Administration from the Russian State Social University. He started his career when he was 14 years old at the Institute for Nuclear Safety (IBRAE), Russian Academy of Sciences. Later Ponomarev was among the founders of two successful high technology start-ups in Russia, the first one (RussProfi) when he was 16 years old. His first job position was at the Institute for Nuclear Safety (IBRAE), Russian Academy of Sciences. In 1995/1996 Ponomarev acted as a representative of the networking software company Banyan Systems in Russia. At that time he created one of the largest distributed networks in Russia for now-defunct oil company Yukos. Afterwards he worked at Schlumberger in 1996–1998 and at Yukos from 1998–2001. He went on to earn a living as a technology entrepreneur. In 2002–2007 Ponomarev worked as the chief information officer of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation.
Ponomarev is known to be standing on unorthodox left, best described as progressive libertarian position. Some people call him "neo-communist", although critics inside the Communist Party of Russia have identified him as "neotrotskyist". Ponomarev publicly calls for:
- society of equal opportunities for everyone without oppression and exploitation based on equal access to education,
- non-restrictive government being gradually replaced by direct democracy,
- promotion of social and business entrepreneurship that will transform the society,
- visa-free travel and abolishing national borders,
- traditional private property to be replaced with possession of knowledge and know-how.
Geopolitically Ponomarev advocates broader Northern Union between originally Christian nations of Europe, Americas and former USSR and sharply criticizes the US-centric model of globalization that is promoted through IMF, WTO and G8 structures. He himself identifies his approach as "social globalism".
Ilya Ponomarev calls to replace current model of presidential republic in Russia with parliamentary democracy, based on guarded division of branches of power with leading role of judicial branch, strong federalist model with most tax revenues staying in regions.
Ponomarev usually stresses that leftists should protect political and social freedoms and stand on behalf all oppressed groups of population, justifying his position on LGBT and feminist rights. He is always critical of nationalism and clericalism, although known to maintain good personal relations with their prominent activists.
- Vice president of Yukos Oil Company, largest Russian oil and gas corporation. Ponomarev's duties during 4 years at Yukos at different times included being corporate CIO as well as chief executive and chief of operations in Yukos' oilfield technologies and services subsidiaries and daughter investment company ARRAVA IMC (specialized in high technologies). Siberian Internet Company, which was founded by Ponomarev, was the cradle of prominent Internet projects in Russia, like Gazeta.ru
- Director for Business Development and Marketing in CIS for Schlumberger Oilfield Services, responsible for scouting, adopting into Schlumberger product lines and further global marketing of Russia-originated technologies in energy sector
- Vice president for strategy, regional development and government relations at IBS, at time largest Russian system integrator and consulting company
In 2006/2007, Ponomarev was working for Secretary of IT and Telecom as national coordinator for hi-tech parks task force – a $6 bln. private-public project to develop a network of small settlements across the country for fostering innovation and R&D activities.
In December 2007 Ponomarev was elected to the State Duma, representing Novosibirsk. In Duma Ilya Ponomarev chairs Innovation and Venture capital subcommittee of Committee for Economical Development and Entrepreneurship (formerly Technology Development subcommittee of Committee of Information Technologies and Communications). He is author of amendments to the Civil Code, legalizing LLPs in Russia, Net Businesses Act, tax breaks for technology companies, current State Procurement Law and other fiscal and economic measures to support small and medium businesses in Russia and foster competition.
In 2010–2012 in parallel to being member of Duma Ponomarev also headed International Business Development, Commercialization and Technology Transfer for the Skolkovo Foundation – a managing company of the project initiated by Pres. Dmitry Medvedev. He was responsible for creating SkolTech – a joint university between Russia and MIT.
In April 2014 Ponomarev had orchestrated a successful campaign of coalition of opposition forces for the post of Mayor of Novosibirsk and withdrew his own candidacy in favour of the single opposition candidate, communist Anatoly Lokot, who eventually won the elections. In May 2014,following the elections, Ponomarev was appointed "Counselor for Strategic Development and Investments" for Novosibirsk city.
He is member of Society of Petroleum Engineers (IT), Council for Foreign and Defense Policies, Council for National Strategy, fellow at "Open Russia" foundation. Ponomarev is supervising innovation policies research at Institute of Contemporary Development (INSOR, think-tank chaired by Pres. Medvedev), and political studies at Institute of Globalization Studies (IPROG). He also chairs Boards of Trustees at Institute of Innovation Studies, a think tank working on legislation for high-tech industries, and Open Projects Foundation – investment vehicle for projects in crowdfunding, crowdsourcing and open government. In 2010 Ponomarev became co-founder of Korean-Russian Business Council (KRBC).
Ponomarev is a member of Global Science and Innovations Council (GSAIC), chaired by Prime Minister of Malaysia. He is an author of research papers and magazine articles about new economy development, regional policies, education and international relations.
In 2014 Ponomarev became founder of the Institute of Siberia – an analytical center focused on the regional development of Siberia.
During his political career, he was member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (2002–2007) and member of Central Committee Social-Democrat political party A Just Russia (2007–2013), at the beginning of 2014 took part in formation of new political party "Alliance of Greens and Social-Democrats".
Opposition to Putin
In 2012, Ponomarev and fellow MP Dmitry G. Gudkov took a leadership role in street protests against Putin's rule. Following the 4 March presidential election, in which Putin was elected for his third term as president, Ponomarev accused the government of unfair vote-counting practices, stating that the election should have been close enough for a run-off. In May, Ponomarev criticized Putin's decision to retain Igor Shuvalov in his cabinet despite a corruption scandal. The following month, Ponomarev and Gudkov led a filibuster against a bill by Putin's United Russia party allowing large fines for anti-government protesters; though the filibuster was unsuccessful, the action attracted widespread attention. Later among several other politicians Ponomarev successfully challenged this piece of legislation in Constitutional Court, partially rolling the situation back.
In June 2012, Ponomarev made a speech in the Duma in which he called United Russia members "crooks and thieves", a phrase originally used by anti-corruption activist Aleksei Navalny. In September same year, Duma members voted to censure Ponomarev and bar him from speaking for one month. United Russia members also proposed charging him with defamation.
In July, he sharply criticized the government response to the widespread flooding in Southern Russia Krymsk, which killed 172 people. Together with several other civil activists, namely Alyona Popova, Mitya Aleshkovsky, Danila Lindele and Maria Baronova he organized a nationwide fundraising campaign which had drawn public attention and generated almost $1 mln. in small donations and humanitarian aid for flood victims.
In December 2012 Ponomarev was most vocal critic of Dima Yakovlev Law, restricting international adoption of Russian orphans (during first reading he was the only MP who voted against, in the last third reading this number grew to just eight MPs). In 2013 Ponomarev was the only MP who refused to support the gay propaganda law. On 20 March 2014, Ponomarev was again the only State Duma member to vote against the accession of Crimea to the Russian Federation in the 2014 Crimean crisis.
In 2012 Ponomarev supported Internet Restriction Bill: anti child pornography and drug trading legislation introduced by his party mate and fellow parliamentarian Yelena Mizulina, which critics compare with the Chinese Internet Firewall -- RosKomCenzura blocklist of censored pages, domain names and IP addresses. Ponomarev explained his actions with possibility to limit government involvement in Internet regulation and create a self-governing body of Net-activists, which was proposed in the bill, but a Russian blogger and journalist Maxim "Parker" Kononenko has accused Ponomarev of lobbying commercial interests of the company "Infra-engineering" owned by Konstantin Malofeev, a businessman connected with the censorship lobby, where Vladimir Ponomarev, father of Ponomarev, served on the board as an independent director. According to the law, all Internet providers are obliged to install expensive DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) hardware, which some people believed will go through "Infra-engineering". In reality none of DPI servers were ever sold by "Infra-engineering", but Vladimir Ponomarev had resigned from the board to stop speculations.
In July 2013 Ponomarev took part in the meeting of Russian Pirate Party, where he announced that his support for Mizulina's bill was a mistake[unreliable source] and later numerously voted against new initiatives by Russian government to restrict Internet freedoms and became instrumental in campaign against Russian version of SOPA. Despite this Ponomarev is often portrayed by some opposition activists such as Alexey Navalny and Leonid Volkov as "censorship lobbyist", which he himself claims to originate from political competition and struggle over influence over the Internet community in Russia.
Leonid Razvozzhayev incident
In October 2012, the pro-government news channel NTV aired a documentary which accused Ponomarev's aide Leonid Razvozzhayev of arranging a meeting between another opposition ex-leader, the Left Front's Sergei Udaltsov, and a Georgian official Givi Targamadze, for the purpose of overthrowing President Vladimir Putin. A spokesman for Russian investigators stated that the government was considering terrorism charges against Udaltsov, and Razvozzhayev, Udaltsov, and Konstantin Lebedev, an assistant of Udaltsov's, were charged with "plotting mass riots". Razvozzhayev fled to Kiev, Ukraine, where he applied for asylum from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, but disappeared after leaving the office for lunch. He resurfaced in Moscow three days later, where the website Life News caught him on tape leaving a Moscow courthouse, shouting that he had been abducted and tortured. A spokesman for Russia's Investigative Committee stated that Razvozzhayev had not been abducted, but had turned himself in freely and volunteered a confession of his conspiracy with Udaltsov and Lebedev to cause widespread rioting.
In August 2014 both Udaltsov and Razvozzhayev were sentenced to 4.5 years in camp.
Russian annexation of Crimea and accusations of embezzlement
Ponomarev was the only member of the State Duma to vote against annexation of Crimea during the 2014 Russian invasion of Ukraine. Despite being very critical over the 2014 Ukrainian revolution as being driven by alliance of neoliberals and nationalists, he justified his position in Duma with the necessity to keep friendly relations with the "brotherly Ukrainian nation", avoid military confrontation at all costs, and argued that Russia's actions in Crimea would push Ukraine outside the traditional sphere of Russian influence and possibly provoke further expansion of NATO. After being the only deputy to oppose the annexation in a 445-1 landslide vote many people called for his resignation, however Ponomarev responded that deputies can not be prosecuted or removed simply for the way they vote in parliament. He was threatened with censure and expulsion but the parliament took no further action regarding the status of Ponomarev as deputy. In August 2014, while he was in California, federal bailiffs froze Ponomarev's bank accounts and announced that they would not allow him to return to Russia. He then lived in San Jose, California, but is since 2016 a permanent resident of Ukraine's capital Kiev.
Russian investigation committee launched a fraud inquiry against Ponomarev for embezzling 22 million rubles earmarked for the Skolkovo technology hub, an action Ponomarev describes as politically motivated. Russian investigators discovered that Skolkovo Vice-President Aleksey Beltyukov had paid Ponomaryov about $750,000 for 10 lectures and one research paper. The probe and subsequent court hearings proved these allegations to be true. Beltyukov was suspended and a criminal investigation into his case is ongoing. Ponomaryov was not prosecuted because of his parliamentary immunity, but the court ordered him to return the money. Despite not residing in Russia Illya Ponomarev continued to hold his parliamentary position and was technically and active member of the Russian Duma until the September 2016 Duma election.
In 2015 Moscow Bauman Court heard Ponomaryov case in absentia and decided to arrest him, an international search warrant was issued. On 10 June 2016 State Duma impeached Ponomarev for truancy and not performing his duties. It was the first precedent of application of the controversial 2016 law that allows Duma to impeach its deputies.
Ponomarev is divorced. He has a son and a daughter. His mother, Larisa Ponomareva, was an MP in the upper house of Russia's Parliament, the Federation Council, until September 2013, when she was forced to resign following her lone vote against the Dima Yakovlev Law. Ponomarev is a nephew of Boris Ponomarev, Secretary for International Relations of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Ponomarev's grandfather Nikolai Ponomarev was the Soviet ambassador to Poland and is believed to have prevented the USSR's invasion of the country together with Wojciech Jaruzelski and paid with his career for doing that.
After fellow former Russian MP Denis Voronenkov was shot and killed in Kiev on 23 March 2017 Ponomarev was given personal protection by the Ukrainian Security Service. Voronenkov was on his way to meet Ponomarev when he was shot.
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Last August, Ponomarev found out that he had been charged with illegally funneling money from a startup foundation he was involved with, charges he has said are "fabricated" and really meant as payback for his Crimea vote. Since then, Ponomarev has been living in San José.
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- Walker, Shaun (23 March 2017). "Denis Voronenkov: former Russian MP who fled to Ukraine shot dead in Kiev". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 March 2017.