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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tver's 2 Top Leaders Suspended Amid Investigations

The northwestern city of Tver is mired in scandal after its two main elected leaders -- the mayor and the head of the municipal legislature -- were suspended during investigations into corruption and abuse of power allegations.

A city court sanctioned the arrest of legislature head Viktor Pochtaryov and two fellow lawmakers on charges of abuse of power last week. The lawmakers are suspected of taking bribes from businesses in return for lobbying for their interests, Galina Malyuta, an aide to the Tver region's chief prosecutor, said Monday. She declined to elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation.

Tver Mayor Oleg Lebedev was suspended in November after prosecutors accused him of attempting to prevent them from investigating his top deputy, Oleg Kudryashov, who also has been suspended. A city court suspended Lebedev after prosecutors said he prevented them from seizing records in City Hall's accounting office in July.

Deputy Mayor Sergei Pankov has been appointed acting mayor, but Lebedev is continuing to run the city, holding meetings with his officials and handing out awards. However, "holding meetings doesn't mean making decisions," said a City Hall spokesman, Andrei Mikhailov.

Lebedev was unavailable for comment because he was on vacation until early April, Mikhailov said.

But Lebedev's secretary, who did not give her name, said he could not talk to a reporter because he was accepting birthday congratulations in his office. Lebedev turned 42 on Sunday.

Viktor Beketov, the acting chief prosecutor of Tver's central district, which is handling Lebedev's case, said his investigation had finished and that a court would issue a ruling by the end of March. He declined further comment.

The Prosecutor General's Office said in a statement that prosecutors had sought the records in the accounting office in connection with an investigation into whether Kudryashov had illegally asked construction companies to pay a fee for permits to rent municipal land or build on the land. That investigation is ongoing. Kudryashov could not be reached for comment.

Andrei Ivanov, a spokesman for Tver Governor Dmitry Zelenin, said the investigations were undermining public trust in local government. "I'm afraid that as long as such people are running the city, we will not be protected from things like this in the future," he said, Interfax reported.