Siberian mayor is arrested, first target of Yeltsin probe Anti-corruption campaign got started with ex-boxer

October 09, 1997|By Kathy Lally | Kathy Lally,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

MOSCOW -- When Boris N. Yeltsin launched an anti-corruption campaign by personally ordering an investigation into the affairs of the mayor of a small Siberian city, most Russians assumed their president would get satisfaction.

And they were right.

Gennady Konyakhin, mayor of Leninsk-Kuznetsky, was arrested yesterday in Moscow, 2,000 miles from his home, and charged with "a major theft of state property committed by a group of persons upon collusion."

Russian news agencies reported that police put the mayor on the wanted list after he left Leninsk-Kuznetsky, apparently suspecting he was trying to flee.

Yeltsin ordered an investigation of Konyakhin at the end of September after a Russian newspaper published articles in which the mayor was accused of ordering contract killings and enriching himself at city expense.

In an interview last week, Konyakhin, a 38-year-old former boxer, was full of brave talk. "Now there is a law on presumption of innocence," he said.

But most Russians are confident that their government has not yet completely abandoned tradition. Under the Soviet system, anyone charged was destined to be found guilty and charges were inevitable for anyone unlucky enough to hear accusations all the way from the Kremlin.

The mayor, who had three criminal convictions in his past, insisted last week that he was innocent.

"I am clean today," he said.

If his case is typical, he is likely to remain in jail for up to two years before he can even answer the charges in court.

Pub Date: 10/09/97

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