Russian PM has private meeting with tycoon Vekselberg

September 20, 2016 12:26 PM EDT

Russian Prime Minister and Chairman of the United Russia party Dmitry Medvedev speaks at the party's campaign headquarters following a parliamentary election in Moscow, Russia, September 18, 2016. Sputnik/Pool/Ekaterina Shtukina via REUTERS

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday had a private meeting with Viktor Vekselberg, the billionaire tycoon whose lieutenants were earlier this month put in jail on charges of paying bribes to local government officials.

The prosecutions of the two executives in Vekselberg's Renova group prompted speculation that the businessman himself could be targeted, suffering the same fate as other prominent tycoons who have fallen from grace under President Vladimir Putin.

"They spoke, it was an unofficial meeting at Medvedev's residence,", a government source told Reuters. The government press office confirmed the meeting took place, but declined to give details.

A source in Vekselberg's entourage said the businessman had planned to raise the investigation with Medvedev, but it was not yet clear if he had been able to do that.

A spokesman for Vekselberg declined comment.

State investigators on Sept. 5 laid bribery charges against Evgeny Olkhovik, Renova chief managing director, and Boris Vainzikher, chief executive of Renova subsidiary T Plus. Lawyers for both men have declined to comment.

At the time they were detained, a Renova spokesman said the company would cooperate with the authorities, and that the investigation was not connected with Vekselberg personally.

A third suspect in the case, Mikhail Slobodin, used to be the head of a utility which is now owned by Renova. He is currently abroad. His lawyer, Sergey Koptyakov, told Reuters on Tuesday his client denies the charges and is appealing against an order for his arrest.

(Reporting by Anastasiya Lyrchikova and Svetlana Reiter; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Vladimir Soldatkin)

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