Procurator General Yury Skuratov, Russia’s chief legal officer, announced yesterday that he has launched an investigation into a payment of $100,000 made to the former head of Russia’s privatization agency, Alfred Kokh. (Itar-Tass, September 11) The payment had been made to Kokh by an obscure Swiss publishing company, never known to have published a book before, as an advance on an as yet unpublished book on privatization. Kokh, a close associate of First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais, resigned from the government last month in the wake of a scandal over his organization of the sale of shares in two companies, Svyazinvest and Norilsk Nickel. He has since taken a post with a subsidiary of Oneksimbank, which emerged the winner from both sales. The implication behind Skuratov’s statement is that the royalty payment may have been some kind of bribe. Because the announcement comes at a time of escalating conflict between the Chubais team in the Russian government and those leading banks that lost out in the Svyazinvest and Norilsk deals, it is certain to be interpreted by the Chubais camp as a politically motivated attack on the government’s privatization strategy as a whole.