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Deputy Ministers Allies Call for His Release

Published: November 23, 2007 (Issue # 1326)



  • Storchak, seen here in February, is the governments top foreign debt official.
    Photo: Reuters

MOSCOW Lawyers and colleagues of Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak mounted a fierce defense of the imprisoned official Wednesday, calling for his immediate release as he faces charges of attempted embezzlement.

Storchaks court-appointed lawyer appealed his arrest, and a date for the hearing is expected by the end of the week, Moscow City Court spokeswoman Anna Usachyova said.

Storchaks own lawyer, Igor Pastukhov, said the court would hear the case Friday. Until then, hes sitting in Lefortovo prison, he said. Storchak has been held in the Soviet-era jail since his detention last Thursday.

The Prosecutor Generals Investigative Committee has said it will bring charges against Storchak and two businessmen by next week on suspicion of attempting to embezzle $43.4 million from the state budget.

Storchak oversaw all debt negotiations between Russia and foreign states, as well as the $148 billion oil stabilization fund, in his role as deputy to Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin.

Federal Security Service officers detained Storchak as Kudrin was flying to an international conference in South Africa. Kudrin, who has called his deputys arrest incomprehensible, returned to Moscow as planned Tuesday, a ministry spokeswoman said.

State Duma Deputy Alexander Lebedev, a billionaire shareholder in Aeroflot, said Wednesday that he had offered the court his personal guarantee that Storchak would not flee the country or tamper with evidence if released while awaiting trial.

He is a worthy enough man not to stay in detention during the investigation, Lebedev said, Interfax reported.

Storchaks arrest, the most high profile of a serving state official during President Vladimir Putins time in office, came two weeks ahead of the Dec. 2 State Duma elections. The presidential vote will follow in March.

Above all, [the arrest] is linked to the need to fight corruption, said Sergei Markov, a Kremlin-connected political analyst. Everyone in government is nervous about what will happen to them after the elections, he added.

Neither Putin nor Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov has commented publicly on the arrest. Some analysts have seen the move against Storchak as a sign of continuing power struggles within the Kremlin as the elections draw near.

The accusations are believed to stem from the repayment of Soviet-era debt from Algeria, which were organized through commercial contracts with little-known firm Sodexim.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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