On Friday Yeltsin took a second shot at Skuratov, suspending him from office by decree and asking the Federation Council to dismiss him. The decree refers to an investigation of Skuratov for abuse of power, a criminal charge which carries a maximum penalty of four years imprisonment. The charges reportedly relate indirectly to the famous video tape, broadcast on Russian television and in the United States on the estimable Fox network, showing a pasty, fat naked guy who could be Yuri Skuratov in bed with two naked women. The nub of the latest charge is that the women were paid by a business figure as a bribe to the prosecutor. Proving that charge will require authentication of the video, which could make public who made the tape, and why.
But who opened the investigation of Skuratov, and who is conducting it and under whose authority–these questions have not been answered. Until they are, the legality of Yeltsin’s decree will remain in doubt. Skuratov says he rejects his suspension and will continue his work. The confrontation between the prosecutor and the president could easily grow to a constitutional crisis from which only one winner will emerge. That may not turn out to be Boris Yeltsin.