Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 89

Prior to yesterday’s inaugural session of the Federation Council’s anticorruption commission, some sources predicted that the Kremlin and Skuratov might find a mutually satisfactory solution to their battle. According to some reports, the commission, which met behind closed doors for more than five hours, discussed a possible compromise, under which Yeltsin would rescind his April decree suspending Skuratov and Skuratov would then step down voluntarily.

The Federation Council has twice rejected the Kremlin’s recommendation that Skuratov be removed from office, which has been a strong blow to Yeltsin’s authority. Meanwhile, Skuratov himself has charged that the criminal investigation of his own actions, which was launched after a video allegedly showing him with two call girls was made public, is illegal. The case has reportedly split the Main Military Prosecutor’s office, which is investigating Skuratov, with some saying that the case against Skuratov, reportedly initiated by the Kremlin in early April, has no legal basis.

It is possible, however, that Skuratov’s fate will be determined politically, not legally. An anonymous member of the new commission told the media that the council might agree to the Kremlin’s choice for a new prosecutor general. Candidates to replace Skuratov reportedly include former Moscow chief prosecutor Gennady Ponomarev; Yuri Golik, an aide to Federation Council chairman Yegor Stroev; and Vladimir Plotanov, vice speaker of the Federation Council. Before yesterday’s inaugural session, the commission’s head, Oleg Korolev, reportedly met with the first deputy of the Kremlin administration, Oleg Sysuev, to discuss the possibility that President Yeltsin will, before May 19, make his third request to the Federation Council that it approve Skuratov’s resignation (Izvestia, May 7).

While it indeed looks likely that Skuratov’s ultimate removal from the Prosecutor General’s Office is imminent, some observers believe the material he has gathered in high-profile cases involving the Swiss firm Mabetex, Aeroflot airlines, Russia’s Central Bank and others could still play a role in determining the correlation of forces at the top. According to some reports, Skuratov received from the Swiss authorities a list of Swiss bank accounts held by top Russian officials and VIPs.

In a column published today, Nezavisimaya gazeta editor in chief Vitaly Tretyakov wrote that “conclusive and powerful revelations of Skuratov” could tip the balance of power away from the Kremlin in favor of Yevgeny Primakov’s cabinet and the opposition-dominated State Duma. However, he added, this would be “in essence a declaration of war on the president” (Nezavisimaya gazeta, May 7).