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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Vladivostok Mayor Is Forced From Office by Investigation

The mayor of Vladivostok was suspended by a regional court Wednesday, removing him from office during an investigation into accusations of embezzlement, national media reported.

The Mayor's Office in Vladivostok has been beset with scandal. One incumbent was sacked in a Kremlin power struggle, while another is on trial for a financial deal sealed without due process.

Prosecutors suspect Nikolayev of funding his bodyguards from the city's coffers, using police cars for private escort duty and flying within Russia and abroad on expensive charter planes, Russia's First Channel television said.

"The reason given for this court ruling is that ... Nikolayev, by using his position, could apply psychological pressure on deputy directors of organizations who ... could provide explanations that would suit the investigators," Nikolayev's lawyer Olga Korovina told the channel.

The suspended mayor said he was innocent.

"All those facts that were presented in court are completely made up," he told NTV television.

Besides Nikolayev, one of his deputies and other senior city officials are under investigation for embezzlement, RIA-Novosti reported. The mayor and his subordinates are suspected of stealing $3.8 million, including more than $3 million that had been intended for city coffers.

About 500 people gathered in central Vladivostok to support Nikolayev, Interfax said. Television showed them holding banners reading: "Hands off the mayor."