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Russia: Duma Suspends Debates Of Anti-Crisis Package

Moscow, 2 July 1998 (RFE/RL) - The Russian State Duma today suspended debate on a government-proposed austerity package pending clarification of a move by the government to freeze assets of the natural-gas monopoly Gazprom for non-payment of taxes. Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko announced at a cabinet meeting earlier today that he had also instructed his deputy Boris Nemtsov to cancel a trust agreement with Gazprom.

Under the agreement Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev managed 35 percent of the government-owned shares in the company. Ekho Moskvy radio said that Gazprom owed the state nearly $1 billion but the figure has not been officially confirmed.

Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, who also chairs the collegium of state representatives in Gazprom, and the head of the Federal Tax Service, Boris Fyodorov, were expected later today at the Duma.

The Duma today continued discussions of some 20 bills aimed to ease Russia's financial crisis and rejected a simplified and slightly lowered income tax scale.

The new tax scale called for three tax rates, from 12 to 35 percent, compared to the six rates in the current scale.

Deputies said they voted down the bill because it would have done away with tax breaks for the needy and those serving in the armed forces. The bill was sent back to the government for revision.