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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Officials Appeal Drop of Bribery Charges for Well-Connected Instructor

Bribery charges were dropped Thursday against the daughter of a dean at Moscow State University, law enforcement officials said, as accusations swirled that a high-level United Russia official lobbied for the case to be closed.

Polina Surina, 26, was released after two days in custody on charges of attempting to receive a 35,000 euro ($46,000) bribe from a would-be student seeking fast-track entry, city investigators said. She teaches in the economic theory department of the university's school of government, which is headed by her father, Alexei Surin.

If convicted, she would have faced up to five years in prison.

Nina Ostanina, a State Duma deputy for the Communist Party, said Thursday that she believed Surina was released because Duma Deputy Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, a senior leader in United Russia and a professor at the school of government, intervened on her behalf.

Ostanina told The Moscow Times that she had written to Prosecutor General Yury Chaika asking that he investigate whether Volodin pressured investigators to drop the charges.

“I wanted Chaika to take this case under his personal control,” she said. “All of this shakes the credibility of the United Russia party and the state.”

Ostanina said investigators told her that they were pressured by the central district of the City Prosecutor's Office to close the case. In addition to teaching, Surina is also closely connected to United Russia and has worked on various political campaigns for Volodin, she said.

The Moscow branch of the Investigative Committee said Thursday that it disagreed with the central district prosecutor's office, which announced that it was dropping the charges.

A spokesman for the committee said it had sent an appeal to Moscow's top prosecutor.

A spokeswoman for Surin’s office at Moscow State University's school of civil service declined to comment on the case. Volodin and Surina could not be reached for comment.

While Surina and Volodin both teach at the same school, they are in different departments. Volodin — who studied engineering and has a law degree from the Presidential Academy of State Service — is a professor in the state building department, which was created last year.

Moscow State University's school of government includes a number of political heavyweights among its professors. Other department heads include Mikhail Shvydkoi, a former culture minister, and Viktor Danilov-Danilyan, a former natural resources minister.

The school of government is one of the university's most prestigious, as students are able to get internships with parliamentary committees and in the presidential administration.