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Former Russian Prime Minister Plans to Sue George W. Bush

Aired October 25, 2000 - 2:35 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: A once-powerful Kremlin politician is stepping into the U.S. presidential brawl.

Here's Moscow bureau chief Jill Dougherty with that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Viktor Chernomyrdin says he'll sue presidential candidate George W. Bush over this comment made during the presidential debate:

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We went into Russia, we said, here's some IMF money, it ended up in Viktor Chernomyrdin's pocket and others'.

DOUGHERTY: Chernomyrdin says the charge is ludicrous. The IMF says it has no evidence to support Bush's allegation.

VIKTOR CHERNOMYRDIN, FORMER RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): If I have all those millions, where are they? Go to any bank in any country. If anyone finds it -- the alleged $5 billion, or whatever the figure is -- he can keep all of it. I don't need it.

What kind of rubbish is that?

DOUGHERTY: The former gas-industry boss turned prime minister was one of the most powerful men in Russia in the Yeltsin administration, once considered a possible successor to the president.

Mr. Yeltsin fired him in March of 1998. Chernomyrdin has been dogged by allegations of corruption, which he vehemently denies. Now, his once close-working relationship with U.S. Vice President Al Gore has become an issue. Together, they chaired the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission that dealt with a wide range of Russian-U.S. issues, from arms control to investment.

Bush has attacked Gore for a 1995 memorandum he signed with Chernomyrdin that allowed Russia to complete delivery of conventional weapons to Iran if Russia agreed to refrain from any future such agreements. Republicans call it a secret pact. The White House says details were published. Viktor Chernomyrdin says he may have asked Gore not to disclose some details, but only in the initial stages of negotiation. Wednesday, Chernomyrdin told reporters he knows it's complicated to sue in the United States but, he says, whether George W. Bush is a presidential candidate or not makes no difference to him.

CHERNOMYRDIN (through translator): I'll do it, regardless of who he becomes there, even God almighty. But I'm afraid he'll never make it; it's a thorny path -- but I'll do it no matter what.

DOUGHERTY (on camera): Chernomyrdin also says he's ready to fly to the United States to testify at congressional Republican hearings on the Russian-Iranian arms deal. "Just tell me who to talk to," he says.

Jill Dougherty, CNN, Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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