MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian governor has been arrested on charges of taking a 400,000-euro ($454,000) bribe, the nation's top investigative agency said Friday.
Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said that Kirov regional Gov. Nikita Belykh was caught red-handed while accepting the money in a Moscow restaurant.
Belykh has worked as the governor of the industrial region east of Moscow since 2009. Prior to his appointment, he served as the leader of the Union of Right Forces, a liberal party — a track record untypical among Russia's provincial leaders.
Markin insisted that Belykh's case has nothing to do with politics. He said the 41-year-old is suspected of accepting the bribe in exchange for preferences to a local businessman.
The Investigative Committee posted images of Belykh at a table with piles of euro notes apparently marked by police in front of him. Russian state TV stations showed footage of him in handcuffs being escorted by police officers.
Belykh was first appointed Kirov governor by President Dmitry Medvedev who took helm in 2008 after Vladimir Putin served the constitutional limit of two consecutive terms. Medvedev served as a placeholder for Putin, who continued to call the shots and reclaimed the job in 2012.
During Medvedev's presidency, Belykh was seen as an embodiment of pro-reform forces in the Russian government. After Putin's return to the Russian presidency, Belykh has taken a lower profile but won a second term in 2014.
Belykh's case is the latest in a series of arrests of regional and federal officials intended to showcase the Kremlin's efforts to combat corruption.