Fri, Jul 20, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Moscow detains Arkhangelsk mayor Alexander Donskoi

AMBITIOUSThe little-known mayor of a north western city who recently announced his plans to run for president was spirited away by security forces

AP , MOSCOW

A city mayor who has been under pressure from authorities since he announced plans to seek the presidency was detained by law enforcement offers who came to his apartment in masks and helmets, Russian media reported.

Alexander Donskoi, mayor of the northwestern city of Arkhangelsk, was detained on suspicion of abuse of office, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. He had been charged earlier this year with illegal business activities and faking a diploma.

ambition

Donskoi, a businessman who became mayor in 2005, last year announced plans to seek the presidency next year. With President Vladimir Putin constitutionally barred from seeking a third straight term, political tensions are mounting ahead of the vote.

While Russian authorities have moved to silence opponents planning to challenge an expected Kremlin-backed candidate in the election, it is unclear whether the cases against Donskoi are directly linked with his presidential ambitions.

The little-known politician would be hard pressed to mount a meaningful presidential bid, and his loyalties are uncertain. He has praised some of Putin's policies and has criticized both the opposition and the main pro-Kremlin parties that dominate politics.

Asked about Donskoi's troubles at his annual news conference in February, Putin said he believed they were a result of his disputes with the Arkhangelsk regional governor. The two have traded accusations of corruption and impropriety.

unwell

NTV television showed footage of Donskoi being firmly escorted through a crowd - and at one point dragged - by masked, helmeted law enforcement agents. Donskoi, who was reportedly on sick leave, appeared to have difficulty standing up and walking.

ITAR-Tass cited an aide to the regional prosecutor as saying Donskoi was accused of ordering the use of mayor's office funds to pay for the personal security of himself and his family. The aide, Yulia Shevchenko, said he faced up to seven years in prison if convicted.

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