MOSCOW, May 7 (RIA Novosti) – A senior vice president at Russia’s high-profile, high-tech center The Skolkovo Foundation, Alexei Beltyukov, has been suspended, a spokesman for the foundation has confirmed.
"Alexei Beltyukov has been suspended. This took place before the May holidays. His duties are currently being carried out by another employee," a Skolkovo Foundation spokesman told RIA Novosti on Tuesday.
He said Beltyukov has “handed in his resignation, as it is difficult to perform duties when a criminal investigation is taking place.”
Russian investigators opened a criminal case against Beltyukov last month over the suspicion that he spent $750,000 illegally by paying opposition lawmaker Ilya Ponomaryov, ostensibly for a series of lectures and research projects.
Ponomaryov has been summoned as a witness by the Russian Investigative Committee over the Skolkovo fraud case, the committee said on Tuesday.“I am sure that I will be able to provide the necessary answers,” Ponomaryov told RIA Novosti.
Both Beltyukov and Ponomaryov deny any wrongdoing.
The Beltyukov-Ponomaryov case is the latest of several targeting Skolkovo executives.
Criminal investigations were opened into two senior Skolkovo executives in February over the alleged embezzlement of $800,000. Subsequent law enforcement searches in the offices of the Skolkovo Foundation disrupted the schedules of top managers.
The crackdown on Skolkovo has prompted a rare public spat between senior state officials, with Deputy Prime Minister Vladislav Surkov and Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin trading pot shots over the issue.
Surkov spoke last week about investigators’ excessive zeal in the case, to which Markin responded Tuesday with an acrid editorial in the Izvestia daily, in which he alleged that Skolkovo’s defenders are trying to derail the investigation by presenting it as political persecution.
“I’m not commenting on graphomania,” Surkov told journalists in Moscow when asked to comment on Markov’s diatribe.
The Skolkovo Foundation which manages the eponymous high-tech hub, is a pet project of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and was opened during his presidency in 2010.
It is often called Russia’s “Silicon Valley” and was intended to lead the country’s drive to diversify and modernize its economy and increase the output of high-tech products.
The foundation’s president, billionaire Russian businessman Viktor Vekselberg, was among the dozens of US and Russian entrepreneurs and officials taking part in innovation working group meetings.
Updated with para 3, Ponomayov’s quote in para 5, Surkov-Markin spat.