Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 56

Reports in the Russian media, citing unnamed Federation Council sources, have already circulated that Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov would again ask to be relieved of his official duties (Russian agencies, March 19). This may, however, have been Kremlin spin. On the other hand, some observers say that more “kompromat” (compromising materials) may be revealed against Skuratov, in addition to the sex tape in which he allegedly stars. Thus Skuratov may have to strike quickly. Gennady Seleznev, speaker of the State Duma and a leading Communist official, told a weekly magazine: “I think that in this situation Skuratov must take a very radical step. He must release facts related to the Yeltsin family–[related] to their expenditures and so on, and to the use of budget funds for mercenary ends” (Profil, March 22).

The controversy surrounding Skuratov and Mabetex threatens to plunge the country into a major political crisis. Yeltsin may have to act quickly to avoid appearing powerless and to regain the initiative, and thus may act on his long-rumored intention to fire leftist members of the cabinet–specifically, Yuri Maslyukov and Gennady Kulik. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov has already warned that his party has formed “strike committees” which will be activated if Yeltsin fires Primakov or cabinet members. In interviews over the weekend, Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky said that both Skuratov’s alleged behavior and the showing of a fragment of the video last week on RTR shows that the discrediting of Russia’s authorities has reached its “culmination” and that the power system which Yeltsin created after 1991 is “breaking up.” According to Yavlinsky, maintaining stability largely depends on the government and “Primakov himself.” The Yabloko leader attacked Zyuganov for trying to take advantage of the situation. Yavlinsky, who has been at the forefront of charges that Maslyukov and Kulik are corrupt, said Primakov should broaden his contacts beyond the leftist leaders. He also said that Yeltsin should “immediately fire the ten to fifteen people whom society suspects of thievery and corruption” from the cabinet and the Kremlin administration (ORT, March 20; TV-6, March 21). Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, meanwhile, said that the dismissal of Nikolai Bordyuzha as Kremlin chief of staff was “yet more proof of the weakness of the top authorities” (Russian agencies, March 20).