Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 101

In an interview published today, Anton Surikov, press secretary to former First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov, claims that charges of top Russian officials and other notables having Swiss bank accounts are true. Surikov, a veteran of Russia’s special services, also claims that Yeltsin will not cede power when his term ends next year.

Surikov, who has been described as having been one of the key “ideologists” in former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov’s government, was asked about the claim that top members of the Russian elite have Swiss bank accounts. The charge was first made earlier this year by Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov, who claimed that he had received documents from the Swiss authorities proving this. “Concerning the documents of Swiss prosecutor Carla Del Ponte and bank accounts held by our state officials in foreign banks, such accounts exist,” Surikov said. “I will go further. Information concerning bank accounts and property of our elite came not only from Switzerland, but from Germany. Practically all [our] authorities are one way or another involved in corruption. In the West, they have full documentation concerning this. This is dangerous. Because now, when it will be useful to the West, it can present kompromat [compromising materials] against any representative of Russian government and business. These [people] can be blackmailed in order to produce decisions beneficial to the West” (Versia, May 25-31). Surikov’s former boss, Yuri Maslyukov, was the target of a large number of corruption allegations.

As for Yeltsin’s plans next year, Surikov said: “I can predict: If politicians and the mass media actively consider Sergei Stepashin as a potential successor to Boris Yeltsin, if television begins to show him having high ratings, then his dismissal is inevitable. Because our president views only himself in the capacity of his successor. He will under no circumstances relinquish power voluntarily. In this connection, attempts to unite Russia and Belarus before the presidential elections in 2000 should be watched closely. I believe that with the help of this mechanism there will be an attempt to keep Yeltsin in the Kremlin for a third term, already in the capacity of the president of a Russia-Belarus union” (Versia, May 25-31).

Surikov is clearly in the camp of Yeltsin’s opponents, and thus would have a stake in such an interpretation of Yeltsin’s possible plans and motivations. On the other hand, a number of politicians–ranging from Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky to ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky–and media have also said Yeltsin may try to retain power through a union with Belarus.