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NOVOZAVIDOVO, Tver Region — People in this town used to stare at Jean Gregoire Sagbo because they had never seen a black man. Now they say they see in him something equally rare — an honest politician.

Sagbo last month became the first black to be elected to office in Russia.In a country where racism is entrenched and often violent, Sagbo’s election as one of Novozavidovo’s 10 municipal councilors is a milestone. But among the town’s 10,000 people, the 48-year-old from the West African country of Benin is viewed simply as a Russian who cares about his hometown.

He promises to revive the impoverished, garbage-strewn town where he has lived for 21 years and raised a family. His plans include reducing rampant drug addiction, cleaning up a polluted lake and delivering heating to homes.

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