Arrest of opposition mayor triggers political scandal

enforcers have arrested Mayor Yevgeny Urlashov of Yaroslavl and three of his
subordinates on charges of bribery. The mayor denies any wrongdoing and claims
his arrest was politically motivated.

Urlashov is a member of an opposition
party, the Civil Platform, which is set to challenge the ruling United Russia
in fall elections.

The Investigative
Committee website reads: “During the period from December 2012 through July 2,
2013, the mayor of the city of Yaroslavl and his subordinates were extorting
from the director of a commercial company a bribe in the amount of 14 million rubles
[around $422,000] out of a sum remitted to the company in payment for services
rendered. In the event that the company’s director failed to meet the demands,
the suspects repeatedly threatened to withhold payment for services under the
next contract.”

yaroslavl urlashov

The Interior
Ministry claims that 14 million was only the first portion out of a total of 45
million rubles ($1.3 million) solicited. A source from the social network
publication and close to the law enforcement agencies said other
charges might be brought against Urlashov.

The mayor denies
the charges against him. Urlashov’s press spokesperson, Lyudmila Antonova,
quoted the mayor to the Interfax news agency: “I think this provocation is
partly aimed at bringing political pressure on me and my fellow party members
ahead of the Sept. 8 elections, and also connected with
the upcoming visit to Yaroslavl on July 7 by Mikhail
Prokhorov, the leader of The Civil Platform.”

Russian pundits: United Russia's future in limbo

Russian pundits: United Russia’s future in limbo

Another source
close to the Presidential Executive Office adds that Urlashov’s independent
political position has recently caused much trouble for United Russia.

Urlashov was
elected mayor a little over a year ago, after he defeated the United Russia candidate
by a wide margin, winning more than 70 percent of the votes.

Urlashov was
formerly a member of United Russia, but he resigned from the party in 2011. He
is now a member of the federal civil committee of Mikhail Prokhorov’s Civil

“The demonstrative
arrest of a popularly elected mayor is a blow against the civil rights and
freedoms of every Russian citizen. Whatever the authorities may suspect
Urlashov of, he is not a terrorist and is not on the federal wanted list,” reads
the statement made by Civil Platform leader Mikhail Prokhorov and released by
the party’s press service on Wednesday, July 3.

The detention of
Urlashov shocked even the secretary of the United Russia General Council
Presidium, Sergey Neverov, who told that “to detain a mayor, the law
enforcement agencies must have weighty reasons; if such reasons are not
presented or published, this looks extremely strange and is inadmissible on the
eve of elections.”


Greshnevikov, a State Duma deputy representing the Just Russia party, told that the mayor was arrested shortly after a rally against the
governing party in Yaroslavl that gathered thousands of protesters.  

The Russian
Internal Affairs Ministry believes the case against Urlashov should be treated
as a political one.

“I urge a more attentive listening to Yevgeny Urlashov’s
conversations that have already been published in the press, in which he
explains why he needs the money. It is clear from the context that it was
certainly not for improving the city infrastructure,” a spokesperson for the
Investigative Committee, Vladimir Markin, told journalists.

The Investigative
Committee representative said that “some politicians, without bothering to look
into the case carefully, are trying to bring public pressure on the
investigation, thereby forcing us to disclose the weighty grounds for or proof
of Urlashov’s complicity in a crime.”


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“Although this is
not, of course, in the interests of the investigation, some of the evidence has
already been presented and some more will be presented soon,” said Markin.

Experts believe,
however, that Urlashov’s arrest will not benefit the governing party.

affair will benefit rather the CPRF [Communist Party of Russia] and Just
Russia. As for the future performance of The Civil Platform, much will depend
on whether Prokhorov heads up the list and the campaign and takes a firm
stand,” said Konstantin Kalachev, head of a political expert group.

He thinks
Urlashov’s arrest will be a test of political resolve for The Civil Platform.

First published in Russia in

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