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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Report: Governor Sued for $1.7M

A businesswoman is suing Ryazan Governor Georgy Shpak for $1.7 million, the amount she says she contributed to his election campaign on the condition that he appoint her deputy governor should he win, Kommersant reported Tuesday.

However, the report could not be confirmed, and an official at the court where Kommersant said the lawsuit had been filed denied that the suit had been filed. Shpak's office and a political analyst said the claim is probably some kind of PR stunt ahead of the region's legislative elections next month.

Natalya Suchkova, the general director of a construction materials holding, told Kommersant that she gave Shpak's campaign 48 million rubles and signed an agreement with him on March 3 to be named deputy governor. Kommersant published a copy of a document requiring Shpak to return "the interest-free loan" if he failed to carry out his side of the bargain.

But "after the election, I was no longer of any interest," Suchkova was quoted as saying.

Kommersant said Suchkova filed suit in Ryzan's Sovetsky District Court on Monday.

However, an official in the Sovetsky court said by telephone that no suit had been filed.

Suchkova, who heads the holding Krotbers, a Ryazan-based group of factories that produce construction materials, could not be reached for comment.

Shpak's spokeswoman, Olga Chulyayeva, dismissed the allegation as a provocation aimed at creating instability in the region on the eve of legislative elections, which are scheduled for March 20.

Alexei Titkov, a regional politics analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center, agreed that the claim and the elections appear to be linked. "Ryazan lives in a pre-election mode, and every move should be viewed as part of a PR campaign by the players," he said.

Titkov also said Shpak's job does not appear to be at risk, even though he won on March 28, 2004, with the support of the nationalist Rodina bloc. He noted that Shpak has since distanced himself from Rodina in an effort to establish good ties with the Kremlin and United Russia, while his opponent in the race, State Duma Deputy Igor Morozov, has given up his United Russia membership to become an independent deputy.

Morozov told Kommersant that he will ask the Prosecutor General's Office to investigate Suchkova's claims, which, if proven, would be a violation of the election law and could result in Shpak losing his job.

Suchkova said some of the 48 million rubles had come from her savings, while the rest was raised through loans and donations.