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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ivanov on Mission to Save Russia's Image Abroad




President Boris Yeltsin, stung by media allegations of Russian money laundering and corruption, has told Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to defend the country's image during a trip to New York.


Ivanov, quoted by Itar-Tass, said he had been asked to explain what was happening in Russia at the United Nations General Assembly so that a "shadow was not thrown on Russia, on the relations of Russia with other countries."


Ivanov was due to leave Moscow on Friday at the start of a two-week foreign tour, which includes next week's UN gathering, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said.


She could give no details of his trip, which is also expected to include visits to Canada, Cuba and Belgium.


But Itar-Tass quoted Ivanov as saying he planned to meet representatives of The New York Times, which last month reported that U.S. investigators were looking into a suspected Russian money-laundering scheme involving billions of dollars.


The New York Times, citing law enforcement sources, said as much as $10 billion may have been laundered by Russian mobsters, businessmen or officials through accounts at the Bank of New York since early last year.


Other newspapers have said the money-laundering operation may have involved $15 billion, including money from IMF loans to Russia.


Russian officials say such large sums are more likely to be from importers channeling payments offshore to avoid paying Russian taxes, rather than from organized crime activities.


The Bank of New York says it is cooperating with the investigation and no one has been charged with wrongdoing. The IMF is also investigating Russia's use of its loans and has delayed consideration of the next disbursement, but it says there is no evidence so far of funds being misused.


Itar-Tass quoted Ivanov as saying he had been told by Yeltsin to work actively to ensure that Russia's image is not hurt. He gave no details but was quoted as saying that Russia was ready to help with any investigation into the allegations.


A high-ranking delegation of Russian security officials traveled to Washington this week to assist in the probe, which is being conducted at the same time as a separate investigation by Swiss and Russian authorities into allegations of Kremlin corruption.


The Kremlin, which has been criticized by some Russian politicians for not reacting strongly enough, has denied the charges published by Western and Russian newspapers, saying they were part of a politically motivated campaign to smear Russia.