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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ex-Volgograd Mayor Convicted and Freed

Itar-TassIshchenko leaving a Volgograd court after being released on Wednesday.
Former Volgograd Mayor Yevgeny Ishchenko walked free from jail Wednesday after being sentenced to one year time served and banned from holding public office for four years.

A Volgograd court convicted Ishchenko, 34, of illegal participation in business activities and illegal possession of ammunition. A charge of abuse of office was thrown out.

Since Ishchenko had been jailed in a pretrial detention center since last May, he was released shortly after the verdict.

"I am glad that I am free. I am very glad that I can hug my wife and children," Ishchenko said, Interfax reported.

He said he still maintains his innocence.

Ishchenko's case was among a series of investigations opened against mayors in what political analysts see as a campaign by the Kremlin and governors to instill greater loyalty in mayors.

In Arkhangelsk, Mayor Alexander Donskoi is being investigated on suspicion of abuse of office for purportedly dipping into city coffers to pay for bodyguards for himself and his family.

Tolyatti Mayor Nikolai Utkin was detained last month on suspicion of demanding a multimillion-dollar bribe.

There are dozens of criminal cases being conducted against deputy mayors, small-town mayors and former mayors.

Ishchenko resigned as mayor in October, and Communist candidate Roman Grebennikov won an upset victory over the United Russia candidate in an early election held last month.

The charge of abuse of office followed an investigation by Volgograd prosecutors that found Ishchenko had used his influence to gain privileges for a company he owned in renting offices and land. In addition, a search of his apartment turned up 94 rifle cartridges.

Ishchenko told the court in a 25-minute closing statement on June 6 that he had been framed.

"I have lived through many hardships over the year I have been in custody. I declare my full innocence, and I am asking you to declare me not guilty," he said, Itar-Tass reported. "I will never be involved in politics again."