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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

2 Zubov Aides Held in Krasnoyarsk

Another former deputy governor of Krasnoyarsk has been arrested in an embezzlement scandal over the disappearance of regional government funds intended for helping resettle residents from the far north of the vast Siberian region.

Some Russian newspapers say the investigation may reach former Governor Valery Zubov, who was unseated last spring by Alexander Lebed.

The investigation is one of many now under way into the actions of former governors and their deputies in Russia's regions.

Valentina Cherezova, 52, was arrested last week and will be formally charged within the next few days, the regional prosecutor's office said Monday.

She and Vladimir Kuzmin, another former deputy governor who was arrested Oct. 2, are accused in the disappearance of 9 million rubles from the region's budget. The money was allocated to the "North-South" program for resettling residents of the Far North in the southern districts of the Krasnoyarsk region and was supposed to be used to build apartments.

But nothing has been built and the money has disappeared, said Nina Kazakevich, assistant regional prosecutor.

Cherezova quit her job with the regional administration earlier this year, prior to the regional elections, the prosecutor said. She went into business but kept her connections with the administration's staff and was often seen coming to her former office.

The last time Cherezova appeared there, last Wednesday, she was detained.

If found guilty, she faces five to 10 years in prison under Article 159.3 of the criminal code for large-scale fraud conducted by a group.

Lebed, the current governor and a presidential hopeful, said the arrests of his predecessor's deputies were not politically motivated. "We are not settling scores with the former administration," Lebed was quoted by Interfax as saying.

Kazakevich confirmed that the current administration had distanced itself from this case.

Denying news reports, the prosecutor said there was no indication yet that the former Krasnoyarsk governor was involved in the embezzlement scheme.

"Such speculations are premature and unethical," Kazakevich said. "There are certain people being investigated at this moment, and Zubov is not among them."

The Kommersant Daily newspaper quoted a source at the regional prosecutor's office as saying that Zubov must have known about the alleged fraud and was likely to end up under arrest as well.

"Almost any activity of regional administrations is linked with breaking the law, only some extra efforts are needed to find kompromat on anybody," said Nikolai Petrov, an expert in regional politics at the Moscow Carnegie Center.

Petrov said the allegations against Zubov work in Lebed's interests by diverting attention from Lebed's failure to follow through on campaign promises to turn around the Krasnoyarsk region's economy.

"It brings attention at least to his determination in fighting the corrupted bureaucrats," Petrov said.

The Krasnoyarsk embezzlement case is one of many investigations being carried out by the Prosecutor General's Office to combat corruption in the regions, Petrov said.

About a dozen regional leaders have been arrested during the last 18 months, including Nikolai Sevryugin, a former Tula governor; Nikolai Podgornov, a former Vologda governor; and Yury Kononchuk and Vladimir Bunchuk, both deputies of Kursk Governor Alexander Rutskoi.

Investigations are continuing against deputy governors in Vladimir, Sakhalin, Voronezh, Magadan and Perm.

In September, graft charges were filed against former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, who left the country in 1997.