Two Kremlin insiders under investigation for corruption have accused a rival oligarch of being behind the charges against them. Pavel Borodin, the former Kremlin property manager who was recently named state secretary of the Russia-Belarus union, suggested on January 28 that accusations that he had accepted bribes from the Swiss construction firm Mabetex in return for lucrative Russian government refurbishment contracts were part of a smear campaign organized by Vladimir Gusinsky, founder and owner of the Media-Most group. Last week, Swiss law enforcement officials confirmed that they had issued a warrant for Borodin in connection with the Mabetex case (see the Monitor, January 28). According to a report today, the Swiss authorities wanted to keep the warrant secret, so that they could detain Borodin and extradite him while he was travelling abroad using Interpol, the international law enforcement agency (Segodnya, January 31). Borodin has denied all the allegations and said that he is willing to go to Switzerland voluntarily to answer questions.
Borodin’s charges against Gusinsky and Media-Most were echoed by Boris Berezovsky. Last week, the French newspaper Le Monde featured an interview with Nikolai Volkov, who is heading the probe by the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office into alleged money laundering from the state airline Aeroflot through Swiss companies belonging to Berezovsky. Volkov said that Berezovsky might soon be charged with embezzling state funds and money laundering. Berezovsky charged during a January 28 press conference that “all the proceedings in Switzerland against political figures in Russia are politically motivated.” He noted that Gusinsky and Carla del Ponte, formerly Switzerland’s chief prosecutor, were both planning to participate in a panel discussion on Russian corruption as part of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Del Ponte, who is now chief prosecutor with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at The Hague, Netherlands, worked closely last year with Yuri Skuratov, Russia’s suspended prosecutor general, in developing both the Mabetex case and the one involving Aeroflot. Berezovsky accused del Ponte and Gusinsky of being “the driving force” behind “cases against various people in Russia” (ORT, January 28).
Media-Most’s NTV television emphasized over the weekend the past links between Borodin and Acting President Vladimir Putin. Last night’s broadcast of “Itogi,” NTV’s weekly news analysis program, included a segment which noted that Putin left St. Petersburg in 1995 to become Borodin’s assistant in Moscow. The segment included an August 1995 clip in which Putin insisted that he moved to Moscow at Borodin’s initiative (NTV, January 30). While Putin removed Borodin from his Kremlin post in early January, just after Boris Yeltsin resigned as president, Borodin’s recent appointment as state secretary of the Russia-Belarus union would not have been possible without Putin’s support. Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky said yesterday that he was perplexed that Putin had not yet responded to the fact that the Swiss authorities had issued a warrant for Borodin. Yavlinsky, who is attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said that Putin must clearly indicate his position toward “high-placed officials suspected of corruption” (Russian agencies, January 31).
Meanwhile, Yuri Skuratov, Russia’s suspended prosecutor general, was charged last week with abusing his office for allegedly accepting free suits worth nearly US$40,000. Last year, Mabetex head Bahgjet Pacolli claimed he had given Skuratov 14 suits worth US$60,000. Skuratov threatened to sue Pacolli for the allegation. If convicted, Skuratov could be sentenced to seven years in prison (Russian agencies, January 28).
POLITICAL, MILITARY PREPARATIONS FOR BALTIC ADMISSION TO NATO.