Igor Babenko behind bars. Photo: Sud51.com

Corruption scandal rocks Murmansk politics

Governor Marina Kovtun’s former top aide is put behind bars on suspicion of serious fraud.
October 23, 2017

The FSB in Murmansk on Friday detained former Deputy Governor Igor Babenko. In handcuffs, the former top official was taken to a city courthouse where he was confronted with a serious corruption scheme involving several hundred million rubles.

Babenko has been Governor Marina Kovtun’s right hand ever since she was appointed regional leader in 2012. He was dismissed from his post in early October.

As revealed by Bloger51, Babenko and several more top officials over several years squeezed the major companies in the region for big sums of so-called «charity funds», a kind of «sponsor money» for the officials’ non-budgetary activities.

At least 40 companies regularly got letters from the regional government where they were requested to allocate money for non-official government activities. The letters were signed by Governor Marina Kovtun herself, Bloger51 reports.

Babenko is believed to have played the key role in the illegal scheme.

However, it is increasingly difficult also for Governor Kovtun to distance herself from the case.

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The detention of Babenko comes after regional government’s deputy Chief of staff Eduard Nikrashevsky, as well as Georgy Blagodelsky, deputy head of the Department Supporting the Activities of the Murmansk Region Government, were arrested in July

Igor Babenko will remain in pre-trial detention until mid- December. He has agreed to actively cooperate with the investigators, Bloger51 informs.

Igor Babenko came to Murmansk Oblast  in 1986 to serve in the Armed Forces and soon got a job as press spokesman for the Northern Fleet. In early 2012 he was employed as head of the press office of company Severstal in Olenegorsk and from April 2012 joined the team of Marina Kovtun, where he first served as Chief of Staff and later as Deputy Governor.

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