Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 138

The weekend saw an intensification in the war pitting Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, the Most Media empire and its television channel NTV on one side, against the Kremlin inner circle–specifically the tycoon Boris Berezovsky and Russian Public Television (ORT), which Berezovsky reportedly controls–on the other.

The spark for the latest flurry of accusations and counteraccusations were press reports last week that the Vladimir regional branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB) had raided the offices of and seized bank accounts belonging to Inteko, a firm which manufactures plastic items and is headed by Luzhkov’s wife, Yelena Baturina. The raids were made in connection with an investigation into a number of Moscow-based companies and a local Vladimir bank allegedly involved in a large-scale scheme to send money illegally to the Pacific Island of Nauru, a well-known tax haven, using false exports contracts. Over the course of the same investigation, the FSB has reportedly also investigated firms belonging to Viktor Baturin, the brother of the mayor’s wife (Komsomolskaya pravda, July 16; Kommersant, July 14).

In an interview which aired last night, Luzhkov said that his wife’s company had never undertaken activities in Vladimir and was completely unknown there. Luzhkov also claimed that he had documentary proof that the Vladimir FSB had added the names of his wife’s business to those companies being investigated on the orders from the central FSB in Moscow, whose goal was “to find something criminal in [his] wife’s businesses.” Luzhkov claimed that his phones and those of his wife and children are being tapped (NTV, July 18).

The FSB is headed by Vladimir Putin. But Luzhkov claimed that the real instigators of the investigation were the tycoon Boris Berezovsky, the Kremlin administration and “the general system, a large structure kept together by the political goal of staying in power as long as possible.” This latter comment would appear to refer to the “Family,” the group of Kremlin insiders generally thought to include Berezovsky, Tatyana Dyachenko and Kremlin administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin, among others. The proceedings against his wife’s firm, Luzhkov said, reflected the “lawlessness which reigns in the country and in the actions of the law enforcement agencies” (NTV, July 18). On July 17, Luzhkov charged that law enforcement agencies are being used against the Kremlin’s political enemies. The Moscow mayor said that the authorities had “shamed” themselves in investigating his wife’s business and should be replaced (Russian agencies, July 17). He reiterated this call yesterday, emphasizing that the new government he advocates should be determined by election, and calling for a law guaranteeing the president’s security after he leaves office (NTV, July 18).