Opposition mayor accused of bribery in Siberia

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The communist mayor of Russian Siberian city Bratsk has been detained on suspicion of bribery, investigators said Thursday, as his supporters said he had been set up by the police.

Alexander Serov, a member of the Communist Party elected mayor last year in the city of 250,000, "has illegally received four million rubles (135,000 dollars) between August and December" from a businessman, the Investigative Committee said in a statement.

After receiving the latest bribe of "over a million", Serov had locked himself in his apartment.

"There was a threat that Serov will destroy evidence," the statement said.

After investigators and security service officials gained access, they "established that some money was thrown out of the apartment window, and there was an attempt to burn some of the notes."

A video circulated on news websites shows a group of people without uniform and a uniformed emergency situations officer using a saw to break into the apartment. The video does not show any money.

Local residents and the regional Communist Party denied that any cash was found and told AFP that the arrest could have been illegal.

"Nobody showed us any documents, and the search warrant had no stamp or name on it," said Natalia Zaverina, a local teacher and Communist Party member present during the six hour-long raid.

"They brought their own witnesses," she said and refused to let them act as witnesses during the search, she told AFP.

"No money was found, they brought out only a computer, a modem, and a towel from the bathroom," she added.

The investigation's press release "does not correspond to the facts found during the search," said a statement on the Irkutsk region's Communist Party website.

After gubernatorial elections were scrapped in 2004, mayors remain the only government officials still popularly elected by Russians besides the president. However many city parliaments, dominated by majority party United Russia, have already voted to abolish elections of mayors as well.

© 2011 AFP

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