A judicial inquiry has been opened against governor Vyacheslav Gayzer and 18 others, including several of Gayzer's deputies, a spokesman for the committee said. The accused face charges of corruption and belonging to "a criminal group".

"The goal of the group was to... appropriate state property by illegal means," spokesman Vladimir Markin said.

The group had "close contacts with members of the criminal community" and was "led by the head of the Komi republic Vyacheslav Gayzer", he added.

The alleged acts took place between 2006 and 2015. The group was dismantled by agents from the Investigative Committee and Russia's FSB security service, the spokesman said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that President Vladimir Putin had been informed about the
governor's arrest.

While Moscow has long declared war on corruption, which permeates all levels of government, it is highly unusual for senior officials to come under criminal investigation.

In March, Alexander Khoroshavin, the governor of Russia's far eastern gas hub of Sakhalin, was arrested on suspicion of taking a large bribe.

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