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Relations between Russia and the United States must not be damaged by allegations of money laundering through a New York bank, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in an interview Sunday.

Putin said Russian law enforcement was working with U.S. officials to investigate allegations that up to $10 billion was laundered by Russian organized crime through the Bank of New York, but gave no details.

He called for calm to avoid a deterioration in U.S.-Russian ties, already strained in recent months by the conflict in Kosovo and other international disputes.

The reputations of Russia and its businessmen were being unfairly tarnished, Putin said.

"This campaign should not damage Russian-American relations and Russia's business reputation," Putin said in an interview on ORT television.

Illegal capital flight is a problem in Russia, but the claims about the Bank of New York have been exaggerated, Putin said.

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