Marijuana-smoking, would-be MPs jailed in Russia

PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY, November 29 (RIA Novosti) - Three parliamentary candidates from a Russian ultranationalist party have been sentenced to prison in the country's Far East after being arrested for smoking marijuana.

The three men were arrested by police on Wednesday in the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky after a complaint by a local resident that a group of people was "clearly partaking of illegal substances."

Reports say that the political hopefuls, Andrei Abikh, Maxim Shut and Alexander Shumilin, produced their party candidate cards as proof of identity after being stopped by police.

The would-be MPs, who are all due to stand in Sunday's elections to the State Duma, Russia's lower house, were sentenced to terms ranging from 10 to 12 days. It was not immediately clear if the men would still be able to stand.

A party spokesman said that they would also face drug therapy including community work, such as "clearing snow, and sweeping streets."

The three are all members of the Liberal Democratic Party, led by the outspoken Vladimir Zhirinovsky. The party is the third largest in Russia, and, despite the 'Liberal' in its name, is well-known for its nationalist views.

Earlier this year, Zhirinovsky announced that he was in favor of drug and alcohol tests for potential employees.

This year, the party announced that Andrei Lugovoi, Britain's main suspect in the 2006 Alexander Litvinenko case, would be among its candidates in the State Duma elections.

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