Yeltsin lawyer hurt as car rammed

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The Independent Online
PRESIDENT Boris Yeltsin's lawyer in the case being heard in the Constitutional Court against the former Communist Party was injured when his car was rammed at high speed, but he rejected suggestions from Mr Yeltsin's office that the incident may have been deliberate.

Sergei Shakhrai, who has been representing Mr Yeltsin in the President's efforts to uphold his ban against the Communist Party, was travelling at 80mph in his Volga limousine out of Moscow on Thrusday night when a smaller car, a Lada, rammed him from the inside lane.

Mr Shakhrai's car careered across the road, hit a tree and flipped over. His driver suffered a spinal injury and his bodyguard broke a leg. Mr Shakhrai himself escaped with light bruises.

One of Mr Yeltsin's spokesmen was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying, 'It was an assassination attempt . . . the car was rammed.' But Mr Shakrai said he believed it was an accident, though he noted it was the second such incident in the past year.

In a similar incident in February, the driver of the other car involved reported to the police, but in Thursday's incident the driver of the Lada did not stop.

Mr Shakhrai, 36, is a liberal politician who resigned from the Yeltsin administration under pressure from conservatives. In addition to his lead role in the hearings against the Communists, he is involved in drafting an anti-corruption law. Many liberal Russian politicians consider themselves potential targets of hardline nationalist groups, or of the increasingly powerful Russian mafia, and they often carry guns or have bodyguards.

Meanwhile, on its last day before the summer recess, conservatives in the Russian parliament yesterday pushed through a 1992 budget with increased spending - against the advice of Mr Yeltsin's radical economic reform team. The move will widen the nation's budgetary deficit to 950bn roubles. Yegor Gaidar, the acting Prime Minister and chief economic adviser to Mr Yeltsin, had put forward a figure of 800bn roubles for the deficit.

The move is yet another signal of how tough the conservatives may be with the Gaidar reforms when parliament returns in September.

In another move, the parliament warned it might impose sanctions against Estonia if the Baltic republic continues what MPs claim is growing discrimination against Russians, who make up 35 per cent of the population.

Since they became independent, the three Baltic states have drawn up citizenship laws giving full rights only to direct descendants of those people who lived in the republics before they were incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940.

Conservatives and nationalists in the Russian parliament have been increasingly outspoken about the need to protect Russians from what they call 'acts of terrorism'. A Russian troop convoy in Estonia was fired on by an armed group last week. Three officers and three soldiers were seized, but later released.