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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 November 2007, 02:21 GMT
Russian minister on fraud charges
Sergei Storchak
Sergei Storchak was responsible for Russia's debt policy
Russia's Deputy Finance Minister, Sergei Storchak, has been charged with fraud and attempted embezzlement, his lawyer says.

He was arrested last week after being accused of trying to divert more than $43m (21m) in public funds.

Authorities said he was connected to a massive fraud involving a deal to re-schedule debt owed by Algeria.

Mr Storchak, who has been a deputy finance minister since November 2005, denies any wrong-doing.

His boss, the Russian Finance Minister, Alexei Kudrin, is petitioning the court to release Mr Storchak under his personal guarantee.

"He absolutely does not admit his guilt," Igor Pastukhov, Mr Kudrin's spokesman said on TV.

"It's considered - and we fully support this - that his actions were fully in line with his official duties, resolving those tasks that were in the interest of the state."

Setback for Kudrin

Mr Storchak has specialised in international financial relations, and has been a prominent figure in negotiations over paying off Soviet-era debt.

Russian Finance Minister, Alexei Kudrin
The Russian Finance Minister, Alexei Kudrin, stands by his deputy

Surging oil revenues helped Russia pay off the last of its debt to the Paris Club of international creditors ahead of schedule in 2006.

He helped broker the deal, which was seen as a public-relations coup for Russia, highlighting its booming economy.

Correspondents say the affair is a political setback to Mr Kudrin, who was promoted in a recent cabinet reshuffle by President Putin.

Some Russian newspapers have described Mr Storchak's arrest as an attack by a Kremlin faction against the government's liberal economic policymakers.

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