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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Candidate In Far East Elections Disappears

VLADIVOSTOK, Far East — A gubernatorial candidate in Kamchatka mysteriously vanished over the weekend in what may be a stunt to attract votes, police on the Far East peninsula said Tuesday.

But associates and lawyers of Georgy Greshnykh, 52, say the businessman and deputy of Kamchatka’s regional parliament disappeared just three days before he planned to hold a news conference in Moscow to reveal compromising materials about the local administration and law enforcement officials.

The mystery began Saturday, when Greshnykh failed to show up at the airport in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky for his flight to Moscow, and friends found his Land Cruiser sport utility vehicle abandoned near his home. The door was open and his mobile phone and passport were inside.

Vladimir Yefimov, a close friend of Greshnykh’s and director of the Kamchatka television company, said he spoke with witnesses who saw men in camouflage dragging Greshnykh out of the car. However, police say they have been unable to find additional witnesses to confirm this.

Yury Astakhov, the regional police chief, said local prosecutors have opened a criminal case and police have undertaken a search. But, he added, it is possible that Greshnykh staged his own abduction in order to attract votes for the election later this year.

"I think he has very little chance of winning," Astakhov said in a telephone interview. "So this is probably an election-campaign show. All his [corruption] allegations against the local government are groundless."

Alexei Kostylev, spokesman for the regional government, added that Greshnykh’s rating is lower than other candidates’ and agreed that the abduction was probably staged. "Nobody really needs him," he said. "But we haven’t had any precedents like this."

Greshnykh’s lawyer, Kantemir Karamzin, said law enforcement officials are insisting the kidnapping was staged because Greshnykh had collected compromising materials on the police in general and Astakhov in particular.

"I witnessed a scene between the two when Georgy Borisovich [Greshnykh] told Astakhov: ‘You have destroyed the Kamchatka police. After I give the materials to [Interior Minister Vladimir] Rushailo, you’ll have to leave your job.’"

Greshnykh announced Thursday that he had computer files proving allegations of corruption in the local government and was ready to hand them over to the federal Prosecutor General’s Office in Moscow.

Earlier this year, Greshnykh spoke of financial conflicts with the local administration. He has claimed that the local government owes him and other businessmen $180 million for fuel they had delivered to the peninsula several years ago.

Greshnykh is a wealthy entrepreneur with interests in fishing and oil. He has said he owns three companies in the United States, with a combined annual income of about $3 million.

Last July, Greshnykh said he would be an honest governor because he had no need to steal from the budget.

"I would make a good governor since I have everything I need," he said.

One of the factors against him in the race is a conviction for killing four people in a car accident in 1978.