Governor Sergei Furgal of Russia’s far-eastern Khabarovsk region was arrested and detained on Thursday on suspicion of having ordered multiple murders allegedly committed by an organised criminal group about 15 years ago.
Mr Furgal, governor for the past two years, is considered the “organiser of an attempted murder and the murder of a number of business people” in 2004 and 2005, according to a statement by Russia’s top investigative agency.
Four alleged members of the criminal group have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in those crimes, committed in Khabarovsk and the neighbouring Amur region, the Investigative Committee said in a statement.
He was implicated during questioning of those suspects, state media reported, citing the Investigative Committee.
Mr Furgal, 50, was brought to the capital, Moscow, for further investigative procedures, state media reported. He was to be officially charged, with a court appointed to decide whether he should remain in custody.
Mr Furgal, of the populist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), won the 2018 election against the long-time incumbent, Vyacheslav Shport, who had represented the party most loyal to President Vladimir Putin, United Russia.
He was reportedly elected upon a rise of anti-establishment sentiment in the region.
“This is a very big political case,” LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said in comments carried by Russian state news agency TASS. He emphasized that the party would defend Furgal.
He was detained in the morning outside his home while he was heading to work, state media reported.
Images from the scene showed him wearing a suit and tie while being pulled from a black Lexus SUV by armed officers in camouflage, their faces covered with headgear.
Mr Furgal, an educated medical professional, previously worked as a doctor at a state hospital for seven years until 1999, when he went into the private sector, according to a biography on the Khabarovsk administration’s website.
He was elected as a regional lawmaker in Khabarovsk in 2005 and went on to be appointed to the federal parliament two years later. He served in Russia’s lower house of parliament for 11 years, from 2007 to 2018.