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MOSCOW, January 16 (R-Sport) – Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak has rejected claims that preparations for the Sochi 2014 Olympics have been blighted by massive misspending.
International Olympic Committee member Gian-Franco Kasper told Swiss radio last week that he believed up to a third of Sochi’s alleged $50 billion budget had been siphoned off, pointing the finger at businessmen close to the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin.
“No such facts exist,” Kozak said during a government meeting. “There are abandoned projects, they do exist,” he added. Kozak said “insignificant” money had been spent on feasibility studies on moving the bobsled track and one of the Olympic villages. There was no elaboration.
Kozak said those were the conclusions of the country’s Audit Chamber after a check into Olympic spending, and insisted the budget for Russia’s first-ever Winter Games, which start in three weeks, was closer to $6.4 billion, a figure that appears to exclude the huge infrastructure projects around Olympic venues.
Kasper’s comments have already drawn the ire of senior Russian officials, with Vladimir Yakunin, who as the government-appointed head of Russia’s vast state-run railway company Russian Railways, saying he should be sued for defamation.
“Did [Kasper] take part in this theft? Then he should be judged,” Yakunin said. “If he has received some sort of materials proving it’s true, then put him on the stand, but otherwise you’re a slanderer and you need to be judged according to the law.”
Kasper’s comments were not the first time claims have been made of massive corruption in the Sochi construction process. Opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, a former minister, published a report last year that claimed up to half of the budget had been stolen.
Putin has said in the past he expects “critical remarks” over corruption, but that the issue is confined to “financial institutions” and will not affect the smooth running of the Sochi Games.
The Olympics run from February 7 to 23.
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