Storchak Relieved of EBRD Duties

Jailed Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak has been stripped of his duties as a deputy governor of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Interfax reported Saturday.

Storchak, a close ally of Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, is currently awaiting trial on suspicion of attempting to embezzle $43 million. He denies the charges.

Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov signed a decree stripping Storchak of his EBRD duties, Interfax reported.

A decree published on the government's web site said another deputy finance minister, Dmitry Pankin, had been appointed in his place.

The Storchak case is being watched by investors who say his arrest could be part of an attempt by a hard-line Kremlin clan to undermine the position of Kudrin, who as finance minister has fought for tight fiscal discipline and market reforms.

Storchak, who also oversaw the country's $144 billion stabilization fund, faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted.

Kudrin has offered to vouch personally for Storchak if he is released.