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Russia: Oil Company May Have Tapped Yeltsin's Phone

Moscow, 3 February 1999 (RFE/RL) - A senior Russian prosecutor said today that evidence of illegal eavesdropping on President Boris Yeltsin and his family was discovered during a raid last night on one of Russia's major oil companies. Prosecutor Vladimir Kazakov was quoted by Russian media as saying that police found audio and video cassettes and specialist eavesdropping equipment during the raid on the Sibneft company.

The raid was ordered after the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily reported that business tycoon Boris Berezovsky had monitored private conversations of Yeltsin and his family via a little-known security firm. Both Sibneft, Russia's seventh-largest oil company, and the security firm, Atoll, are linked with Berezovsky.

A Sibneft spokesman said he was "very surprised" by news that surveillance equipment had been found. The company said Atoll is a private security company with no ties to Sibneft.

Meanwhile, Aleksandr Krupnov, the head of Russia's State Communications Committee, said today Russia must spend up to $3 billion to solve the millennium bug problem. Previous Russian estimates had put the cost at $500 million. Krupnov did not say where the money would come from. And he said Russia's armed forces should cooperate more closely with the United States and NATO on how to deal with the problem.