Pavel Borodin, state secretary of the Russia-Belarus union and former Kremlin property manager, will remain in a Brooklyn jail at least until January 25, when a district court will take up his case. Borodin, who was arrested late January 17 upon arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport, appeared before a judge yesterday, who simply advised the detainee of his rights and set the date for the new hearing. The judge refused to release Borodin in the interim, despite a personal guarantee from Yuri Ushakov, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, and Borodin’s offer to wear an electronic bracelet (NTV, Russian agencies, January 19). While Borodin was arrested on the basis of a warrant issued by the Swiss authorities last year, accusing him of money laundering in connection with the so-called Mabetex case, a newspaper, citing unnamed sources in Washington, reported today that a week ago Geneva prosecutor Daniel Devaud sent his American counterparts a request for Borodin’s detention after learning that Borodin was planning to attend the inauguration of President-elect George W. Bush (Vremya novostei, January 19). According to reports today in the American media, Borodin was invited to Washington by Vincent James Zenga, a Palm Beach, Florida businessman who heads Stargate Global Strategies, a telecommunications company with business in Russia. Yesterday, in the wake of Borodin’s arrest, the Bush inaugural committee refunded Zenga’s US$100,000 donation. Zenga said the invitation had been sent to Borodin “inadvertently” (Washington Post, New York Times, January 19).
Russian media have focused on various aspects of the Borodin arrest, including his apparent carelessness–stupidity, some suggested–in traveling abroad in defiance of the international Swiss arrest order and doing so on an ordinary rather than a diplomatic passport (see the Monitor, January 18). Some noted that even if Borodin had entered the United States on his diplomatic passport, he would not have been immune from arrest, given that, first, a diplomat has immunity only when traveling on official business–which Borodin’s visit was not–and, second, that the Russia-Belarus Union is not an internationally recognized entity with official diplomatic representation (Segodnya, Vremya novostei, January 19).
Russian media also reported the various conspiracy theories circulating in Moscow concerning Borodin’s arrest. Strana.ru, the website created by Gleb Pavlovsky, the controversial political consultant and Kremlin adviser, quoted an unnamed source in the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office as saying that “forces standing behind” Media-Most founder Vladimir Gusinsky had engineered Borodin’s arrest, their goal being to force the Prosecutor General’s Office to drop its criminal case against Gusinsky in exchange for a Swiss agreement to drop its case against Borodin. Gusinsky is under house arrest in Spain, where he was detained on a Russian warrant accusing him of large-scale fraud in connection with loans that Media-Most took out from Gazprom, its main creditor. Investigators plan today to impound the Gusinsky’s dacha in Chigasovo, just outside Moscow. Anton Titov, Media-Most’s chief financial officer, was recently arrested and jailed in connection with the same case (Russian agencies, January 19; see also Russia’s Week, January 17; the Fortnight in Review, January 19). Strana.ru put forward an alternative theory for Borodin’s arrest–that the Clinton administration engineered it in order to create an international scandal which would, figuratively speaking, rain on Bush’s inaugural parade (Strana.ru, January 18). U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno said yesterday that members of the outgoing and incoming administrations had held “consultations” over the Borodin arrest–which, she said, she only found out about after the fact (Vremya novostei, January 19). Meanwhile, the Grani.ru website put forward two alternative conspiracy theories for the Borodin arrest. According to one, the “provocation” against Borodin was engineered by the “Chekists”–the group of St. Petersburg special services veterans in President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, led by Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov–in order to force Putin into a final break with the Yeltsin-era “Family,” of which Borodin is a leading member, and to show the incoming Bush administration that the Kremlin is committed to fighting corruption. According to Grani.ru’s second theory, Borodin’s arrest, on the contrary, was the start of “a series of anti-Russian actions” designed to demonstrate the incoming U.S. administration’s “tough and pragmatic foreign policy” and punish Moscow for threatening not to make payments due on its Soviet-era foreign debt (Grani.ru, January 18). Borodin, for his part, called his arrest a “political provocation.” While Russia’s Foreign Ministry has officially protested Borodin’s arrest and demanded his immediate release, Putin has not yet commented on it.
AUSHEV AND DZASOKHOV DISCUSS OSSETIAN-INGUSHETIAN CONFLICT.