Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 134

One of Primakov’s key opponents, the tycoon Boris Berezovsky, has predicted that a Primakov-Luzhkov alliance would be short-lived, citing the irreconcilable nature of what he described as Luzhkov’s “emotional” populism and Primakov’s “cold-blooded” calculating approach to politics. In an extensive interview published today, Berezovsky also said that the “special services” people behind Primakov hold officials of Systema, the Moscow city government’s financial-industrial group, in contempt (Vremya MN, July 13).

Berezovsky also claimed that he had a copy of a note Primakov allegedly wrote to the Prosecutor General’s Office during his tenure as prime minister, requesting that a criminal case be started against Berezovsky. If the note is authentic, it would mean, as Berezovsky claimed in the interview, that Primakov had exceeded his authority and violated the law: A prime minister cannot ask the prosecutor general to open a criminal case. During Primakov’s tenure, companies reportedly controlled by Berezovsky, including Aeroflot state airlines and the Sibneft oil company, were searched in connection with allegations ranging from moneylaundering to illegal eavesdropping. A warrant was later issued for Berezovsky’s arrest, but was rescinded after Primakov was removed as prime minister.

However, the case against Andava, a Swiss company Berezovsky helped found, continues. Andava and several other Swiss-based companies are alleged to have illegally handled all of Aeroflot’s foreign revenues. Last week, Swiss prosecutors carried out searches of offices at the behest of the Russian authorities in connection with embezzlement and moneylaundering cases. While the Swiss side did not indicate exactly which companies were being investigated, some in the Russian press reported that the searches involved Andava and other Berezovsky-related companies (Russian agencies, July 8-9; Kommersant, July 9). The Swiss searches may mean that Berezovsky is still not off the hook, despite the fact that Yuri Skuratov, the prosecutor general who undertook the cases, has effectively been removed from his position. In this connection, Berezovsky said in his interview that he plans to run for a seat in the State Duma. While the tycoon said his goal was to represent the interests of big business, it should also be noted that a seat in the Duma would give him immunity from criminal prosecution.