June 22, 1997 in Nation/World

Official Quits Over Steamy Photos

Associated Press

Suggesting that photographs of him with scantily clad women were fake, Russia’s justice minister stepped aside Saturday to defend himself against the growing scandal, news agencies reported.

Valentin Kovalyov also has been accused of taking bribes from the head of a Moscow bank, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

Kovalyov, a 53-year-old former communist lawmaker, said he intended to return to his post after clearing his name.

Photographs published in the tabloid Sovershenno Secretno, or Top Secret, appear to show him in the sauna of a mafia hangout.

The photographs were taken from a videotape, parts of which were shown on Russian television Saturday. The videotape seems to show Kovalyov naked in a large, whirlpool-style bath with two nude women.

“Every specialist knows very well that modern technologies, including computer techniques, make it possible to put a person into any environment and situation,” Kovalyov said.

Government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov said investigators are trying to determine whether the photographs are authentic.

Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin called Kovalyov back from a trip to Sweden on Friday. A spokesman for Chernomyrdin said the prime minister considered Kovalyov’s temporary resignation “adequate to the situation.”

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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