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  Wednesday, December 11, 2019
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Moscow City Court has remanded in custody Sergei Storchak, a deputy
Moscow City Court has remanded in custody Sergei Storchak, a deputy Russian finance minister accused of attempting to embezzle $43 million in state funds, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported on Monday.

The court turned down an appeal by Storchak's lawyers asking the court to free him from custody until his trial begins.

Reacting to the decision not to free him until his trial, Storchak said that, "It would not be in my interests to flee. The only thing that can help me is to prove my innocence."

The pre-trial detention of Storchak, a key figure in Russia's foreign debt talks, was recently extended until April 9. The prosecutor said the decision to extend the detention had been made in line with Russian criminal law.

The deputy minister was arrested on November 15 last year. He faces five to ten years in prison if convicted. He has denied the charges.

Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, who earlier offered personal guarantees to secure Storchak's release, repeatedly complained that the official's absence has affected the ministry's talks, including on Libya's debt, and on the early payment of Russia's World Bank debt.

Storchak said in court that his arrest was costing Russia $1 million each day.

In line with a recent government move giving ministries the right to appoint up to five deputy ministers, the Finance Ministry requested permission for a fifth minister to cover Storchak's absence.

Observers suggested Storchak's career as a statesman and an international negotiator is likely to be over even if he is cleared of the charges.

The ongoing case against Storchak has triggered speculation about attacks on the Kremlin's liberal bloc and revealed divisions in the Prosecutor General's Office and its main investigative committee, which has pushed for Storchak's prosecution. Top prosecutors have rejected fresh charges against Storchak.


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