MOSCOW (AP) — The mayor of the Russian city of Yaroslavl on Wednesday was found guilty of soliciting bribes and sentenced to 12 ½ years in a high-security prison — an unusually harsh verdict.
When he was arrested in 2013, Yevgeny Urlashov was the only opposition mayor of a major Russian city. He was elected a year earlier on a wave of opposition protests.
The Yaroslavl Regional Court on Wednesday found Urlashov guilty of soliciting 17 million rubles ($255,000) from a local businessman. Two of Urlashov's aides also stood trial: one was convicted of helping to arrange the bribe and sentenced to seven years in prison, and the other was acquitted.
Urlashov pleaded not guilty to the charges and claimed that he had been framed by his political rivals.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny spoke in Urlashov's support on Wednesday, pointing out that he was arrested three days after he staged an opposition rally in Yaroslavl and announced his plans to run for governor.
Evidence against the former mayor was based on testimony of two people who got short prison sentences in an expedited trial.
Urlashov's case was handled by the Russian interior ministry's economic security department, whose then-chiefs now face trial for falsifying evidence and charging people for crimes they never committed.