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Mayor's arrest a warning to Mikhail Prokhorov?

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Mikhail Prokhorov via Facebook

The mayor of Yaroslavl, one of Russia's largest cities, was arrested Wednesday on bribery charges, just days before he was to join Mikhail Prokhorov at a rally in support of the Net owner's political party. The arrest by agents of Vladimir Putin's increasingly repressive government is being called "a clear challenge" to Prokhorov to lower his political rhetoric against Putin.

Mayor Yevgeny Urlashov and two deputies are being held on charges they took $421,000 in bribes from a local trash removal contractor. Both Urlashov and Prokhorov have called the charges political and Prokhorov denounced the arrest as "a strike against the civil rights and freedom of every Russian," Prokhorov said, saying it was meant to intimidate. Urlashov had been allied with Putin's United Russia party, then ran against in the city of 600,000 outside Moscow and won easily.

Christian Science Monitor's Moscow correspondent writes the arrest may be aimed at Prokhorov. "the arrest of Urlashov can be read as a clear challenge to Prokhorov to tone down Civic Platform's ambitions in advance of the September (municipal) elections." Prokhorov had planned to run for mayor of Moscow, but had to drop out because he could not meet the requirements of a new law prohibiting political candidates from owning assets outside Russia.

On Wednesday he insisted in his LiveJournal blog that he intends to go ahead and attend a Civic Platform conference in Yaroslavl this weekend and lend all possible support to Urlashov. He also took actions to provide bail for Urlashov.