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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gems Official Faces Charges

Russia has indicted Yevgeny Bychkov, head of the State Committee for Precious Metals and Precious Stones and a key figure in talks with South Africa's De Beers, on criminal charges, President Boris Yeltsin said Thursday.

But a senior committee official said any changes to Russia's delegation in the talks with the South African diamonds group De Beers would not affect the negotiations.

"Even if Bychkov is removed from talks, it can not change Russia's position," said the official, who wished to remain anonymous.

The official said Bychkov was on a business trip to Botswana and Namibia, and that he had heard of no changes in the committee's administration.

Russia's Prosecutor General's Office last week charged Bychkov with illegal deals and abuse of his position. The indictment makes it clear that he faces criminal charges.

On the negotiating front, the committee official said Russia has offered two agreements on diamond trade to De Beers instead of one currently in use, which will be discussed at talks in Moscow after Feb. 20.

He said the first framework agreement aimed to regulate the principles of global diamond trade, where Russia wants a bigger role, while the actual new trade agreement would be signed with Almazy Rossii Sakha, Russia's biggest diamond producer.

Under the current deal, Russia sells 95 percent of its rough gems through De Beers' London-based Central Selling Organization.