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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. 1


Bikers from all around the world will gather to take part in a parade, extreme shows and rock concerts during the International Biker Festival that revs its engines today and runs through Aug. 3 near Olgino Hotel, 4/2 Primorskogo Shosse.


The Peter and Paul Fortress will be turned into an open-air cinema today and tomorrow as part of the 5th International Short and Animation Film Festival. A huge screen across the fortress walls will air short films non-stop with board games, photo sessions and other activities also on offer for visitors. For more information, visit www.opencinemafest.ru



Saturday, Aug. 2


Gatchina Palace Park Museum will host its second annual Night of Light, an impressive audio-visual show across the night sky. Tickets are 600 rubles ($16).


If graphic design is more your thing then check out Illustration Day, where you will be able to visit an exhibition, attend lectures by professionals and even show experts some of your own work. The event starts at noon at Zona Deystvia, 73 Ligovsky Prospekt. The entrance fee is 350 rubles ($10).



Sunday, Aug. 3


History lovers shouldnt miss the chance to see reenactments of World War I battles in Pushkin at noon. Besides exciting war scenes, visitors can enjoy live music, historical costumes, an equestrian show and a fancy-dress parade starting from the Moscow gates.


Garage Sale, the popular and growing flea market where nothing is priced over 500 rubles ($14.11), starts today at noon in Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt. Be sure to get in early to score a bargain. Entry costs 50 rubles ($1.40)



Monday, Aug. 4


Continue the working week with a calm and steady mind with a free yoga lesson at 7 p.m. in the Bukvoyed store at 23A Vladimirsky Prospekt.



Tuesday, Aug. 5


Visit The Romanov Dynasty doll exhibition today, where more than fifty porcelain dolls depicting Russian rulers, and made by Olina Ventzel, will be on show. The exhibition continues through Aug. 31 in Sheremetyev Palace, 34 Fontanka Naberezhnaya.



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