Russian Railways Minister Nikolai Aksyonenko is on vacation, the ministry press service told RIA Novosti Thursday. The press service said that Mr. Aksyonenko took his annual vacation. However, it declined to comment on whether this fact is connected with the initiation of a criminal case against the minister. The press service stressed that Mr. Aksyonenko himself refrained from comments until the investigation was over. At the same time, the Department of Information and Public Relations at the Russian Prosecutor General's Office confirmed to RIA Novosti that on October 23rd the head of the Railways Ministry was charged with abuse of office under Part 3 of Article 286 of the Russian Criminal Code. The charge envisages an imprisonment from 3 to 10 years and a ban to hold certain positions and conduct certain activities for up to 3 years. Earlier, Mr. Aksyonenko was charged with a violation under Part 2 of the same article. Mr. Aksyonenko's status has not changed. He is still a defendant and has no right to leave the country, the Prosecutor General's Office said. The criminal case based on the fact of violations in the Railways Ministry was initiated on October 9, 2001. According to the investigation, Mr. Aksyonenko's abuse of office inflicted a damage of over 70 million rubles (over $2 million) on the Russian state.
Rescuers found the pilot of one of the two Su-34 fighters that had collided in midair in the Far East on January 18