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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Khanty-Mansiisk Mayor Investigated

admhmao.ruValery Sudeikin
Prosecutors in Khanty-Mansiisk are investigating Mayor Valery Sudeikin on suspicion of abuse of office, the latest in a series of crackdowns on mayors in recent months.

Sudeikin is suspected of illegally procuring a new apartment for a female resident, a spokeswoman for the Khanty-Mansiisk regional branch of the Investigative Committee, Yelena Skobeleva, said by telephone Monday.

In February 2005, Sudeikin resettled the woman in a municipal apartment building slated for demolition, Skobeleva said. He then ordered the building to be razed, meaning the woman received an apartment in a new building despite the fact that other residents were legally entitled to receive new apartments before she did, Skobeleva said.

"Sudeikin did it knowingly, and thus he deliberately violated rights of other citizens who were waiting in line for new apartments," she said.

The investigation was opened Thursday, though Sudeikin has not been formally charged. If charged and convicted, he could face up to seven years in prison.

A woman who answered the phone at Sudeikin's office refused to comment and referred all questions to the mayor's spokeswoman, Elvira Chekhunina. Repeated calls to Chekhunina's office went unanswered Monday afternoon.

Sudeikin was first elected mayor of Khanty-Mansiisk, capital of the Khanty-Mansiisk autonomous district, in June 2001 and re-elected in October.

The investigation is the latest in a string of legal crackdowns on mayors of large cities, which some analysts say is an attempt by the Kremlin and governors to instill greater loyalty in city bosses.

Arkhangelsk Mayor Alexander Donskoi is in custody awaiting trial on charges of illegal business activities.

In June, former Volgograd Mayor Yevgeny Ishchenko was sentenced to one year in prison for illegal business activities and released, having served his time while in custody.

Tolyatti Mayor Nikolai Utkin is awaiting trial on extortion charges.

Mayors' legal difficulties largely stem from conflicts with their respective governors, said Rostislav Turovsky, an analyst with the Agency for Regional Information, a Moscow think tank.

But the Kremlin could use the cases to justify canceling mayoral elections and appointing mayors instead, Turovsky said. The Kremlin canceled gubernatorial elections in late 2004, while mayors are still elected.

Lawmakers from the pro-Kremlin United Russia party last year unsuccessfully attempted to pass a law effectively canceling popular elections of mayors.

Khanty-Mansiisk regional prosecutors have been particularly zealous in their crackdown on mayors. On a single day in December, they opened 49 separate criminal cases against Vyacheslav Grigoryev, mayor of the town of Sovetsky. Grigoryev was sentenced to five years in April for fraud connected to distribution of city property.