Primorye Governor's Apartment Searched

Law enforcement officers searched the apartment of Primorye Governor Sergei Darkin on Wednesday night as part of a criminal investigation into the misappropriation of real estate in the region.

Darkin, who was questioned earlier in the day by regional investigators in connection with a case against Igor Mesheryakov, the former head of the Primorye branch of the Federal Property Management Agency, was admitted to hospital with heart problems, Interfax reported, citing police sources.

Darkin's troubles may be a sign that he has fallen out of favor with the Kremlin and could be on his way out, an analyst said.

As part of their investigation into Mesheryakov, the police seized a safe containing documents during the Wednesday night search of Darkin's home, Interfax reported.

Primorye prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into the theft of real estate properties, Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the Investigative Committee, said Thursday in an e-mailed statement.

The statement mentioned neither Darkin nor Mesheryakov, however.

"The Investigative Committee doesn't comment on the investigative activities, in order not to harm the investigation," Markin said.

Avrora Rimskaya, spokeswoman for the Primorye Regional Prosecutors' Office said Mesheryakov had been arrested on charges of large-scale fraud, RIA-Novosti reported.

The criminal investigation into Mesheryakov's activities was opened in December. Prosecutors allege that he had registered millions of rubles worth of state-owned real estate in the region in his own name, the news agency said.

Regional prosecutors could not be reached for comment Thursday. A secretary in Darkin's office said her boss was "on medical leave." She referred all inquiries about the case to law enforcement agencies.

The attention Darkin is drawing from law enforcement agencies could be a sign that his dismissal is in the offing, after he angered federal officials with the "nontransparent spending of federal subsidies," said Alexei Mukhin, a regional-elites analyst at the Center for Political Information.

The federal government has allocated billions of rubles to the Primorye budget for the development of Vladivostok, the regional capital, ahead of the meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in the city in 2012.

Several of Darkin's deputies already face criminal charges, in what Mukhin called "signs of discontent from the Kremlin" that Darkin failed to understand.

"I have a suspicion that Darkin will not stay long in his governor's post," Mukhin said.

Darkin, 44, was elected governor in 2001 and reappointed in 2005. He headed United Russia's regional party list in December's parliamentary elections, but declined a seat in the State Duma after the party's victory.

In late April, then President-elect Dmitry Medvedev invited Darkin for a meeting, where he told the governor to continue preparing the region for the APEC summit. Darkin's term expires in 2009.