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Jailed Ex-Governor Belykh Asks Russian Court To Acquit Him Of Bribery

Former Kirov regional Governor Nikita Belykh (file photo)

Jailed former Russian regional Governor Nikita Belykh maintained his innocence as his bribery trial drew to a close, calling the case against him the result of a "police provocation" and asked the court to acquit him.

In an hour-long final statement to the court on January 26, Belykh said his guilt had not been proven during the investigation or the trial, which began in September.

He said he wants to go home to his wife and four children, and hopes the court will make "a just decision."

Before starting his final statement, the liberal former Kirov region governor felt unwell and medical personnel gave him an injection for high blood pressure.

Investigators detained Belykh in June 2016, claiming they caught him accepting a 400,000-euro bribe at a Moscow restaurant.

At the time, he was the highest-level official to be arrested in office since President Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000.

Once a leader of a liberal opposition party, the Union of Right Forces, he was one of the few provincial governors in Russia not to be closely allied with Putin.

He was chosen as governor of the region northeast of Moscow by President Dmitry Medvedev, who was steered into the Kremlin by Putin in 2008 and pursued more liberal policies that were rolled back when Putin returned in 2012.

Putin fired Belykh in July 2016, after his arrest.

As his trial opened, Belykh dismissed the charge as "absurd" and pleaded not guilty.

On January 24 the state prosecutor asked the Presnya District court in Moscow to sentence Belykh to 10 years in prison and fine him 100 million rubles ($1.8 million).

That hearing and several others were held at Matrosskaya Tishina, the Moscow jail where Belykh is in custody, due to his poor health.

Judge Tatyana Vasyuchenko announced a break after Belykh's final statement and said that the verdict would be pronounced on February 1.

With reporting by Mediazona, TASS, and Interfax
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