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Russia: Government Knows Nothing About Frozen Gazprom Accounts

Moscow, 2 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The Russian government's press service said today it knows nothing about the existence of a written order freezing the accounts of gas giant Gazprom for non-payment of debts.

But our correspondent quotes the government's press service as saying it cannot deny that such a document might be under consideration by an individual ministry or committee, where such projects are usually prepared.

News agencies yesterday quoted Gazprom chairman Rem Vyakhirev as saying the Russian government had frozen some of Gazprom's bank accounts in response to the company's failure to pay an estimated 15 trillion rubles ($300 million) in taxes.

Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev was quoted by agencies as saying Gazprom was unable to fulfill its tax obligations because it is owed 48 trillion rubles ($960 million) from its customers, which include the cities of Moscow, St. Petersburg, and the autonomous Russian republics of Bashkortostan and Tatarstan.

Our correspondent says the cabinet is scheduled to hold a meeting tomorrow, led by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who once headed Gazprom. It is not known if the Gazprom issue will be discussed. The Russian government maintains a 40 percent stake in the company. Gazprom officials today refused to comment.