The attempt by the People’s Khural (parliament) of the Republic of Buryatia to put forward its representative to the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, has ended in scandal. On November 19, Buryatia’s parliament voted in support of Yury Skuratov, the former Russian prosecutor general. Nine days later, it reversed its decision. It is the first such incident in the Federation Council’s history (Russian agencies, November 28).
Scandals have dogged Skuratov. When, in March 1999, Skuratov in his capacity as Russian prosecutor general threatened to expose corruption within President Yeltsin’s inner circle, he was himself compromised: Russian state television screened a videotape purportedly showing him in bed with two prostitutes. In April that year a criminal case was opened against Skuratov and, though it was later closed, Yeltsin removed Skuratov from the prosecutor general’s post. The Russian parliament, however, came to Skuratov’s defense. It was not until ten months later, after the Russian Constitutional Court ruled that Yeltsin had acted correctly in suspending Skuratov, that Skuratov finally resigned as prosecutor general. In March 2000, he ran in Russia’s presidential election, receiving 0.43 percent of the vote.
In his most recent attempt to make a political comeback, Skuratov ran up against resistance from Buryatia’s prosecutor’s office, which protested the Khural’s choice on the grounds that procedural violations took place during the vote (see the Monitor, November 27). Just prior to planned November 28 Khural session during which the Skuratov issue was to be revisited, the Council of Elders of Buryatia, a group of Federation Council members and leaders of the State Duma’s “quartet,” which includes the factions that support President Vladimir Putin, appealed to the Khural, saying that Skuratov’s “past, present and personal qualities” did not match the functions which he would be called upon to fulfill in the Federation Council (NNS.ru, November 28). All of this had the desired effect, and the Khural reversed its decision. Forty-nine deputies voted to support the protest of the prosecutor’s office, five voted against and one abstained (Polit.ru, November 28).
Skuratov did not give up, arguing that the Khural’s decision was made under pressure both from the republic administration and from Moscow and vowing to protest the decision in the Russian Supreme Court. According to Skuratov, a group of deputies in the Khural who supported him also planned to file suit. Moreover, he claimed that procedural violations took place during the Khural’s second vote. However, Skuratov has little hope of prevailing. Vladimir Ryzhkov, an independent deputy in the State Duma, said that what happened to Skuratov showed that the new Federation Council is being formed from people loyal to the Kremlin and that it will not play a politically independent role (Polit.ru, Radio Ekho Moskvy, November 28).
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