WASHINGTON, June 29 (UPI) -- A Moscow Times report that U.S. congressmen asked the State Department to investigate billions in missing aid funds is being challenged on Capitol Hill.
The Times said Tuesday five congressional Republicans had written Secretary of State Colin Powell asking for an investigation into former Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko and the disappearance of $4.8 million in Russian aid released by the International Monetary Fund in 1998.
The letter says the five congressmen learned Kiriyenko had recently purchased property in Illinois and could be planning to seek permanent residency by investing large amounts of money in the United States. Kiriyenko, now the presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District, angrily denounced the allegations as "a bold lie," while four of the five members of Congress identified as signers of the letter have denounced it as a forgery.
"We have neither collectively nor individually signed any letter to Secretary of State Powell regarding former Prime Minister Kiriyenko and his citizenship status," U.S. Reps. Mike Pence, R-Ind, Henry Bonilla, R-Texas, Philip M. Crane, R-Ill., and Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., said in a statement issued Tuesday.
The letter cited by the Moscow Times, they said, "Carries our names with forged signatures and absolutely no approval whatsoever."
U.S. Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., who was also identified as a signer of the letter, was unavailable for comment.