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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Convicted Ex-Mayor Gets Sentence Reduced by Year

The former mayor of a Siberian mining town - who was arrested and later convicted of corruption after President Boris Yeltsin called him a crook on national television - was acquitted Thursday of one of two charges against him, his lawyers said.

Gennady Konyakhin, the former mayor of Leninsk-Kuznetsky in the Kemerovo region, now faces a suspended sentence of two years instead of the original three, defense lawyer Alexander Startsev said in a telephone interview.

Konyakhin had been found guilty of fraud and abusing his office by a regional court in November. Both sides appealed. Prosecutors criticized the sentence as too mild; Konyakhin said he was innocent.

A board of judges reviewed the case and determined that the then-mayor committed no crime and did not abuse his office by allowing a group of construction workers to stay in the town's hotel, Zarya, while working in Leninsk-Kuznetsky, the lawyer said.

The fraud conviction was upheld, as was the part of the sentence stripping Konyakhin of his mayoral post and forbidding him from running for office for three years. Konyakhin spent 13 months in jail awaiting trial.

"The prosecution in this case has fallen apart," defense lawyer Leonty Boyarsky said Thursday on RTR television.

Konyakhin was elected mayor of the town of 120,000 in the spring of 1997. He gained national notoriety later that year when Yeltsin singled him out following a report in the Izvestia newspaper alleging the mayor was involved in organized crime and was using his position to advance his business interests.

Konyakhin, who had been convicted of minor offenses in the 1980s, was arrested in October 1997. Top-ranking investigators were sent from Moscow to the Kemerovo region to look into the charges against Konyakhin, but the investigation produced few results. During the November trial all but two of the charges were dropped.

Following Thursday's ruling, both the prosecution and the defense have a year to file an appeal to the presidium of the regional court. Startsev said he was unsure whether Konyakhin would appeal, although he said his client still maintains his complete innocence. Konyakhin has no plans to return to politics when the three-year period is up, the lawyer said.

Konyakhin's lawyers have said that he ran afoul of powerful financial interests by challenging the system of middlemen taking profits from the local coal mines. After his election, Konyakhin tried to set up a municipal trading company that would have channeled the coal proceeds to the government.