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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kasyanov Associate Investigated

VedomostiSergei Kolotukhin
The Federal Security Service is investigating a close associate of former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov's at the Finance Ministry on charges of abuse of office relating to Russia's debt repayments to the Czech Republic, Russian media reported Tuesday.

The accusation against Sergei Kolotukhin, who was appointed a deputy finance minister by Kasyanov in 2000, has been seen as a Kremlin-inspired attempt to undermine the former prime minister, who has hinted he could run for president in 2008.

In late September 2004, two weeks after Kolotukhin resigned as head of the Finance Ministry's foreign debt department, the Prosecutor General's Office opened a case against him. The case was handed to the FSB last month, Kommersant reported.

The Prosecutor General's Office could not be reached for comment, while an FSB spokesman declined to comment when reached by telephone Tuesday.

Kolotukhin's lawyer Alexei Vinogradov told Interfax on Tuesday that the accusation related to possible abuse of power while Russia was repaying Soviet debts to the Czech Republic. The original debt had been repaid, but Russia still owed $5 million in late penalty fees. Vinogradov said prosecutors had not yet officially accused his client of any crime.

Kolotukhin worked as a deputy finance minister until May 2004, then headed the ministry's foreign debt department. He resigned from the post last September. Media speculated that Kolotukhin had been asked to resign by Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin.

Yury Korgunyuk, an analyst with the Indem think tank, said that the case was a response to Kasyanov's presidential ambitions. "The fight against corruption is used in our country to topple inconvenient political opponents," he said. "This is a warning to Kasyanov that soon they'll start digging for something on him. He'll be next after Mikhail Khodorkovsky's trial finishes."