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Moscow court to review appeal of arrested dep. minister Dec. 3

MOSCOW, November 27 (RIA Novosti) - The Moscow City court will consider on December 3 an appeal by Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak, arrested on suspicion of attempting to embezzle $43 million, the court said on Tuesday.

Storchak's defense lawyers claim that charges against their client are illegal and ungrounded, and have demanded his release.

Russia's deputy prime minister and finance minister, Alexei Kudrin, said earlier today he would submit a petition on Wednesday asking for Storchak's release from custody.

Storchak was detained in Moscow along with two businessmen on November 15 on suspicion of attempting to embezzle $43 million. An arrest warrant was issued the following day.

Russia's Investigation Committee earlier said Storchak had been arrested due to prosecutors' concerns that he could destroy evidence or intimidate witnesses.

The committee also said earlier the arrest was related to the settlement of Soviet-era debts to the Sodexim company, adding that Storchak had been arrested along with Sodexim general director Viktor Zakharov and the president of the Moscow-based Interregional Investment Bank, Vadim Volkov. They face five to ten years in prison.

A key figure in Russia's Paris Club debt talks, Storchak assumed his current post in November 2005. He has pleaded not guilty.

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