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Russian President Orders Investigation Into Olympic Corruption Charges


MOSCOW -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has decided to call for an investigation into corruption surrounding the construction of facilities for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

The independent Russian newspaper "Novaya gazeta" published an article last month containing a copy of a memorandum from Medvedev to Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika about corrupt practices during preparatory work at Sochi.

The document bore the presidential stamp and the instructions: "Investigate and report."

The "Novaya gazeta" article described in detail how senior officials in the Presidential Affairs Department demanded a 1.5 million-ruble ($50,000) kickback from Valery Morozov, the head of the construction company Moskonverstprom, which was bidding to be a developer for the Olympic facilities in Sochi.

Roman Anin, the author of the article, told RFE/RL that he doesn't know how Medvedev's signature ended up on the memorandum, but he didn't think it was a forgery.

"I don't have an answer; but I think it's simply the result of several converging circumstances," Anin said. "First, that the president had looked into the case even before [the article was published] and this isn't his first intervention. And we pursued the story and wrote about it a lot."

Anin said he thought someone close to Morozov passed the article to Medvedev.

"[Morozov] has cooperated with the department of presidential affairs for a long time and there are probably people there who sympathize with him," Anin
said.

For his part, Morozov told RFE/RL he hoped that his charges of corruption within Russia's presidential administration would be fully investigated.

"You know corruption has reached the level of a cancerous tumor that has even infected the [federal] government," he said. "And the leadership understands that it won't be able to stop the spread without taking extreme measures."

Morozov told RFE/RL that despite Medvedev's intervention on July 20, his company continued to be harassed by officials.

"On [July 27], two Interior Ministry personnel came to our office in Sochi, beat up the director of construction, and forced him to sign some falsified documents which they said they needed to launch a criminal case against Moskonverstprom," Morozov said.

In addition, Russian Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin announced in early July that a criminal investigation has been opened into the misuse of funds allocated for the training of the Russian team for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Stepashin told Interfax news agency that the Audit Chamber had established that some 6 billion rubles ($200 million) was allocated for the preparation of the Russian Olympic team, which won far fewer medals than was expected.

He said the chamber was investigating 12 cases of the misuse of Olympic funds in Vancouver, including a lottery that he said resulted in the loss of 2 billion rubles ($66 million) of budget funds.
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