It is an open secret that today A Just Russia party is experiencing hard times. Its popularity continues melting and its faction in the State Duma, the lower house, of parliament is getting smaller, too. There are only 23 A Just Russia deputies there now -- a third less than after its debut election 12 years ago.
A year after the 2017 elections to the State Duma, the party's budget funding was more than halved. Donations from private sponsors have been falling dramatically. In the governors’ elections in sixteen Russian regions on September 8, A Just Russia party did not nominate a single candidate. In a word, the party members can only dream about the role of the “second party of the state” for which it was created twelve years ago.
This crisis stems from many causes, and not all of them are the results of its leaders’ mistakes. However, the most apparent blunder
simply cannot be ignored: there are too many "random" people in the party who use its resources or their parliamentary seats to solve their personal problems without giving thought to the party image or any consequences as a whole.
The most flagrant example is the State Duma deputy Dmitry Ionin, who was elected to parliament two years ago. He got a vacant seat of Alexander Burkov, who had left the party for the post of governor of the Tomsk region. 34-year-old Ionin hasn't made any outstanding contributions since then. On the contrary, he has got wide notoriety for his extravagant drunken misbehavior. Before joining the Duma, Ionin and his friends from the Uralmash gang had fought fiercely for the control over housing and public utilities companies in his native Sverdlovsk region. It is hard to believe that Dmitry's grandfather is a well-known Soviet painter David Ionin, who was an intelligent and respectable person. Had he learnt the context, in which his surname is used now -- in connection with his grandson's tricks -- he would have probably burned with shame.
In 2002, when 17-year-old Ionin just started his political career as a parliamentary assistant to Banzaraktsy Choynozov, a deputy of the Sverdlovsk regional Duma, nothing foretold any troubles. At the age of 19, Ionin became a deputy Director General of the Yekaterinburg Center for Project Solutions of which Andrey Akhtyamov, a local businessman and a member of the regional assembly from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, owned 51 percent of the shares. Together with his new patron Akhtyamov, Ionin took part in the corporate dispute over Uralinvestenergo, which the media called a “corporate raid attempt.” At the age of 20, Ionin graduated in a mysterious way the department of International Relations of the Urals State University. In 2006, high-flyer Ionin took his first steps into business, becoming a co-founder of Verkh-Isetsky REMP, which would be closed down later because of its tax debts. In 2008, Ionin re-registered the Moscow-based company Service Land in his name in Yekaterinburg. Aleksey Aralushkin, the former owner of the company, tried to argue the fact that Service Land had been sold to Ionin but failed to put a proper case in the courtroom.
In the second half of the 2000s, Ionin joined the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) – the fact that now he is denying vehemently. At that time, Ionin’s remote relative Dmitry Taskayev was in charge of LDPR branch in Sverdlovsk: he took the young talent under his wing and assisted in every way possible to Ionin’s climb up the party ladder. However, in 2009, with the LDPR membership card still in his hands, Ionin surprised his fellow party members by running for a deputy of the Nizhneserginskoye Duma on A Just Russia party ticket.
After getting his mandate, Ionin began to criticize Taskayev harshly. Disappointed Taskaev could have easily brought his dangerous relative out into the open, as the latter had begun to tell everyone that his application for LDPR membership had been a forgery but he decided not to air their dirty laundry in public. In the Nizhneserginskoye Duma, 24-year-old Ionin headed the committee on legislation and local governance. Its core business area is wood processing controlled by the Uralmash gang which, Ionin easily managed to find common ground with.
After joining A Just Russia, Ionin's career saw a dramatic upswing. He became a member of the election commission of the Sverdlovsk region with a deciding vote and also headed the most important party project titled ‘Just Housing and Public Utilities’. However, the region's residents would have yet to find out Ionin's vision of justice in the housing utilities sector. His party fellow said that Ionin's promotion was allegedly facilitated by the very same Andrey Akhtyamov, a friend of Alexander Burkov, the leader of A Just Russia’s local branch, who would later give Ionin a mandate of a State Duma deputy. In December 2011, Ionin was elected a deputy of the Sverdlovsk regional Duma. In 2013, his relations with his party colleagues become aggravated as he lobbied for the placing of his friends Evgeny Tarasevich, Alexander Horovets and Nikolay Novikov on the party list. Ionin reached his goal eventually but all his friends lost the election. Then, for the first time, his fellow party members began to blame him openly for putting his private interests above the public ones.
In 2011-2012, Ionin made an attempt to seize the Chkalovskaya asset management company by a raid, but its owner Igor Tyukin managed to reaffirm his rights for the company. In September 2011, Ionin unexpectedly surfaced among the co-founders of the ZAO Solnechny Dom asset management company. At that time, the company located in the township of Aramil was going through bankruptcy proceedings, and the enterprising Ionin decided to snatch control of the entire housing stock without a fanfare by registering a company with the same name. However, he underestimated the vigilance of the residents – they noticed both Ionin’s surname on the lists of founders, and the fact that in accordance with the law he had no right to do business as a deputy. Just Housing and Public Utilities designed by Ionin didn’t seem “just.” Aramil’s residents endlessly sent appeals to the prosecutor's office demanding to strip Ionin of his mandate.
“Even if it's my fellow party member, I don't think that I should engage in whitewashing,” said Marina Cherdyntseva, the leader of the Aramil branch of A Just Russia. “The deputy has a certain power which he simply uses for lobbying his own commercial interests.” Shortly afterwards Cherdyntseva was dismissed, and pro-Ionin Vitaly Starodubtsev was appointed to her position. In 2014, Ionin actively defended Irina Islentyeva, Director General of the Novouralskaya Housing Company – the local administration intended to dismiss her. According to one of the versions, Ionin had a romantic interest in Islentyeva. But more likely, Ionin secured his Uralmash gang friends and patrons from losing control over the housing company. Ionin's colleagues recall that friendship with the gang leaders, in particular, with Igor Sychev, was a source of his pride. In 2015, Ionin fought against the transfer of public utilities in Kamyshlov to OOO Universalstroy. The collapse of the deal would be beneficial for OOO Teplogarant, the company's longtime rival associated with Gennady Ushakov, a deputy of A Just Russia, who had gone broke but was still actively using Uralmash in his schemes.
In 2017, Ionin ran for the post of a governor of the Sverdlovsk region, but apparently had the role of a figurehead. In fact, he did not campaign but only uploaded video clips to his channel and pasted up leaflets. The election fund of 1.4 mln rubles dissolved mysteriously. Nevertheless, Ionin, a well-known person in the region, was expected to be ranked at least second in the election, but he failed to do even that. On the eve of his nomination for governor, Ionin was beaten up. He confused his statements and dates and failed to explain what had happened to him. According to him, he was attacked by “six gangsters in tracksuits,” but as a result, he got away only with a minor concussion and a small incision. However, the police maintained that dead-drunk Ionin had just started fighting with random passers-by on streets.
Two years later, Ionin got into media focus with drunken misbehavior again, firing a gun in one of the city yards in Kamyshlov, where he came “to have a bargain with defrauded homebuyers.” The frightened inhabitants called the police whom Ionin immediately informed of his deputy immunity. The incident shocked Ionin's fellow party members, but no sanctions were imposed on him eventually.
Today, we can see where people like Dmitry Ionin have steered A Just Russia. During his not very long political career, he has been a member of different parties at different times, always pursuing his purely private and selfish interests. As for the parties that were reckless enough to grant their membership to him, now they have to face the consequences of his loud escapades. The presence of such people in the Duma does not make the entire Russian parliament’s image better, regardless of what faction they are members of. Therefore, the sooner Ionin's colleagues raise the question of stripping him of his deputy's mandate and deputy immunity, the less mischief he will cause.