Source AP ©

Russian mayor detained for suspected bribe taking

The mayor of the Russian industrial city of Togliatti was detained on suspicion of receiving a multimillion dollar bribe, prosecutors said Wednesday, the latest in a string of mayors and governors to be targeted for suspected corruption.

Nikolai Utkin's detention comes amid Kremlin efforts to crack down on corrupt officials and consolidate control over the country far-flung and sometimes unruly regions.

The Prosecutor General's Office said authorities in Togliatti, a city of 705,000 on the Volga River and home to Russia's automobile industry, detained Utkin and an aide on Tuesday after seizing a man who allegedly was a go-between for a 25 million ruble (US$970,500; EURO 713,300) bribe.

The money was allegedly the first tranche of a 150 million ruble (US$5.8 million; EURO 4.26 million) bribe Uktin allegedly demanded as part of a real estate deal, prosecutors said.

Several governors and mayors around Russia have been arrested or investigated for corruption in the past year.

Corruption nationwide has clouded the tenure of President Vladimir Putin, who has made fighting it a major goal. Experts say the problems have worsened at all levels of government since he came to office in 2000. Putin's own chief prosecutor said late last year that the problem had "permeated all levels" of government.

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