Putin ally quits Russian parliament in property scandal

MOSCOW - An ally of Vladimir Putin resigned from the Russian parliament on Wednesday to fight accusations that he failed to declare ownership of property in the United States and to protect the reputation of the president's party.
Vladimir Pekhtin, who had already stepped down as head of parliament's ethics committee, denied owning real estate abroad despite documents posted by bloggers on the Internet showing his name on the deeds of property in Florida worth $2 million.
The allegations are an embarrassment for Putin and his United Russia party, which Pekhtin represented in the State Duma lower house, and a rare victory for protest leaders in an online campaign to publicize alleged cases of official corruption.
The resignation appears designed to deflect any criticism of Putin and the party.
"I will not dwell on my personal feelings but I want to say one thing: I am clean before the law, have never violated and never will violate either the spirit or the letter of the law," Pekhtin, 52, said in a speech to the State Duma.