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Russian Provincial Governor's Office Searched


Kirov Province Governor Nikita Belykh
Russian investigators have searched the offices of a regional governor as part of a criminal investigation.

The search of the office of Nikita Belykh, governor of the Kirov region northeast of Moscow, was over the alleged sale of a local liquor factory at half its real value.

Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told journalists in Moscow that investigators were searching for documents related to the sale of a 25.5 percent share in the Urzhum distillery, which previously belonged to the Kirov Oblast, at more than 90 million roubles ($3 million) below its value.

Markin added that Belykh will be “questioned on matters that are of interest to the investigation."

A former moderate opposition party leader, Belykh was appointed governor in 2009 by then-President Dmitry Medvedev.

On his page on a social networking site, Belykh said he will be questioned January 30 as a witness.

He also told Russian radio that he had done nothing wrong, saying: "I am absolutely certain that everything I did was right and correct. Why should I be afraid?"

Markin also said investigators are checking on the possible involvement of a prominent Kremlin critic, Aleksei Navalny.

Last summer, Navalny was charged with stealing timber from a state-owned company in the Kirov region in 2009 while acting as Belykh's aide.

Last month, investigators claimed that Navalny embezzled more than $3 million from a political party in 2007.

Earlier in January, Navalny and his brother were charged with money laundering and a multimillion-dollar fraud against the postal service.

The 36-year-old lawyer, an anticorruption blogger who has helped organize protests against President Vladimir Putin, insists all the charges against him are politically motivated.

The Navalny brothers have been banned from leaving Moscow.

Based on reporting by Interfax,, and Reuters