The big stories of February 2–the “resignation” of Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov and the search of the offices of the Sibneft oil company–continue to generate news and speculation. Sibneft’s offices were reportedly searched for more than nine hours that day, along with the offices of “Atoll,” a private security firm linked with CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovsky. “Moskovsky komsomolets” (M-K) charged last month that Atoll had spied on top government officials and Tatyana Dyachenko, President Boris Yeltsin’s daughter and adviser. Deputy Prosecutor General Mikhail Katyshev said yesterday that the searches had yielded “very good results,” and that there was “a direct link” between Sibneft and Atoll. While refusing to reveal for now “who was spying on whom and how,” Katyshev said that “big names” would face prosecution. Another official from the Prosecutor General’s Office said that investigators had found surveillance equipment and records of illegally taped conversations during the searches (Russian agencies, February 3).
Berezovsky, meanwhile, took another blow yesterday, when the airline company Aeroflot–in which the tycoon reportedly owns a large stake–suspended two top officials viewed as his main allies in the company. The move was made by Aeroflot’s general director, Valery Okulov, who is married to Yeltsin’s elder daughter, Yelena. According to one report, Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov supported Okulov in his battle against Berezovsky’s representatives in the company. Primakov has been in an open conflict with Berezovsky in recent days (Kommersant daily, February 4). According to a 1997 M-K investigation, after Okulov was brought in to head Aeroflot, a Swiss front company controlled by Berezovsky received official Central Bank authorization to manage the airline company’s cash flow, then estimated at US$400 million a year. The two men reportedly had a subsequent falling out.
RUSSIAN MAFIA: HOW SERIOUS A PROBLEM?