On February 12, the chairman of the Russian Accounting Chamber (the rough equivalent of the U.S. General Accounting Office), former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, stated publicly that the cost of the war in Chechnya had been so great that the money spent on it could have covered much of Russia’s debt to the Paris Club, a group of Western creditor nations. “I’m not going to give you the figures,” Stepashin added, “I know what they are, but they’re classified at the moment” (NTV, February 12). Russia is currently scheduled to pay about US$3.5 billion in debt to the Paris Club in 2001 but is seeking to postpone some of the payments (Associated Press, February 13). Duma faction leader Boris Nemtsov recently maintained that Russia was spending US$1 billion a year on the war; Stepashin’s comments suggest that the actual figure could be significantly higher.
In his February 12 remarks, Stepashin also announced that the Accounting Chamber would be conducting an audit of the spending of federal budget funds allocated for the needs of the Chechen Republic. For the first time, the Chamber, in addition, is beginning an audit of funds which have not yet been spent. The reason for this audit is that, of the funds earmarked for Chechnya in budget year 2000, only 88 percent were spent for the designated purpose. The fate of the remaining 12 percent is “unknown.” Stepashin also wants expenditures for the “antiterrorist operation” in Chechnya to occupy a separate, discrete line in the Russian budget (Izvestia, February 13).