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Russia: Duma Urges Probe Into Prosecutor's Resignation

Moscow, 12 February 1999 (RFE/RL) - Russia's lower house of parliament is urging the upper house to launch an investigation into why General Prosecutor Yury Skuratov has resigned. Skuratov says he is stepping down for health reasons. President Boris Yeltsin has accepted the resignation but it still need to be approved by the upper house. Skuratov has alleged that Russia's central bank transferred at least $50 billion, including some International Monetary Fund money, to a private company in the British Channel Islands. Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko later admitted a company was set up to protect Russia's assets from foreign creditors.

Duma deputies today overwhelmingly approved a non-binding resolution urging an investigation for "the real reasons" behind Skuratov's resignation before the upper house, the Federation Council, accepts his resignation.

Skuratov has also been under fire recently for failing to censure Communist lawmakers for anti-Semitic statements and for his alleged role in authorizing police raids on companies belonging to Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky.

Also today, Russian Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov was quoted as saying Russia is counting on $5 billion in foreign loans to help it pay some of the money it owes foreign creditors.

Zadornov's comments appeared in the newspaper Kommersant. He said if Russia does not get the money, its hard-currency reserves will shrink at an "alarming" rate.

Russia is due to pay $17.5 billion to foreign creditors this year. Zadornov says now it can only pay about half of that.

Russia is counting on help from the IMF. The IMF is withholding funds until Russia produces an economic plan that meets with IMF approval.