Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 61

On March 26, Aleksandr Litvinenko, one of Berezovsky’s allies, was arrested. As former Federal Security Service (FSB) lieutenant colonel, Litvinenko made the news in March of last year after claiming publicly that senior FSB officials had ordered him to murder Berezovsky. Litvinenko and several other FSB officers repeated the charges last fall, and charged that senior FSB officials had been involved in other attempted assassinations as well as extortion against businessmen. Following their demarcate, several media had reported that Litvinenko and his cronies within the FSB had in fact been involved in criminal activities. Litvinenko was removed from the FSB, after which Berezovsky, formerly CIS executive secretary, appointed him as an adviser on CIS security questions, which theoretically gave Litvinenko the status of an international bureaucrat and thus immune from prosecution. Now that Berezovsky has been weakened, however, the authorities apparently felt strong enough to detain Litvinenko, who was arrested on charges of using excessive force while questioning a detained suspected mafia boss (Kommersant, March 27).

While the Kosovo crisis has overshadowed the Kremlin corruption scandals, the latter still have the potential to become explosive, particularly given the rumors that the Swiss authorities have handed Skuratov details of bank accounts belonging to top Russian officials and members of Yeltsin’s inner circle. Some observers have said that this information could breath real life into the Communist-led attempt in the State Duma to impeach Yeltsin. Others believe the situation could become even more unstable. One weekly publication put it this way: “The situation in general, it seems, is slowly but surely becoming heated, which has given some analysts reason to speak about the possibility of coup d’etat in the coming weeks” (Russian agencies, Vremya, March 26-April 1).