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Top Soviet Accused of Corruption in Gasoline Sales Is Fired, Purged From Party

December 07, 1985|WILLIAM J. EATON | Times Staff Writer

MOSCOW — The top official responsible for the delivery of gasoline to the Soviet consumer was dismissed Friday and expelled from the Communist Party on charges of being involved in corrupt practices.

The firing of Talgat Z. Khuramshin, chairman of the State Committee for the Supply of Oil Products, was reported in Pravda, the official party newspaper, and was apparently taken in connection with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev's campaign against corruption.

Pravda offered no details for the dismissal, saying only that Khuramshin had been discharged "for misusing his position in self-interested aims." No successor was announced.

Khuramshin, 53, was dismissed after only four years in the post. His removal from a ministerial post amounted to a public admission that corruption had reached the highest level in the government agency responsible for providing fuel to motorists.

The newspaper Soviet Russia, which has carried a series of articles describing massive bribe-taking and fraud in the gasoline distribution system, said that "not a single service station functions without violations."

It described what it said was a vast underground market in coupons for buying gasoline and large-scale theft of fuel.

'On the Left'

Many owners of private cars buy gasoline from the drivers of state-owned trucks for about half the retail price, which is roughly $2 a gallon. Several years ago, when the government doubled the price of gasoline, demand was stimulated for gasoline sold na levo, literally "on the left" but meaning "on the black market."

Siphoning of gasoline from government vehicles to private cars has become so widespread a practice that many motorists have regular weekly deliveries from drivers selling fuel on the sly, according to Soviet sources.

Ever since Gorbachev took office last March, he has been leading a drive against wrongdoing by government officials. He has removed more than a dozen for inefficiency or wrongdoing.

The announcement of Khuramshin's dismissal came in a two-paragraph story on the last page of Pravda under a one-word headline, "Chronicle." The article in Soviet Russia was considerably longer. It blamed the State Committee on Oil Products for blocking efforts to clean up the corruption in the gasoline distribution system.

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