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Russia: Yeltsin Suspends Justice Minister

Moscow, 25 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin today formally suspended Justice Minister Valentin Kovalyov pending an investigation into allegations that the minister was filmed in a sauna with nude women. The establishment is alleged to have been frequented by organized crime figures.

Yeltsin's decree, published this afternoon, said the suspension took effect immediately. It did not say how long it might last.

The "Sovershenno Sekretno" monthly newspaper last week published photographs which it said were taken out of a video film showing Kovalyov in a sauna with nude women. The newspaper said the video was filmed in September 1995, some nine months after Kovalyov became Justice Minister.

Kovalyov, who is 53, has denied any wrongdoings. Last week he asked Yeltsin to relieve him of his duties until he cleared his name. Itar-tass said yesterday that the Russian government had asked Yeltsin to permanently sack Kovalyov instead of just suspending him.