Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 197

Just when it looked impossible that they could get worse, the “kompromat” wars on Russia’s television channels set new lows last night.

Secret Material, a new program on the Moscow city government’s Center-TV hosted by Aleksandr Khinshtein–renowned Moskovsky komsomolets journalist and foe of Boris Berezovsky–devoted itself to exposing the alleged links between Berezovsky and radical Chechen field commanders such as Shamil Basaev and Salman Raduev. The program featured an interview with Mikhail Denisov, who worked with Berezovsky when the latter was deputy secretary of Yeltsin’s advisory Security Council. Denisov said that during his various trips to Chechnya, Chechen officials repeatedly said that Berezovsky was behind the kidnappings-for-ransom which were plaguing the republic, and that Basaev openly admitted receiving money from Berezovsky–saying that it made no difference where the money came from, as long as it was used in the war against “unbelievers.” Berezovsky has admitted giving money to Basaev, putatively for reconstructing the war-torn republic. Denisov also claimed that Berezovsky signed an agreement with Chechen radicals to release any 200 Chechen prisoners incarcerated in Russian jails whom the radicals wanted freed, in return for twenty-one Dagestani policemen who had been taken hostage.

The program also featured an anonymous Federal Security Service agent, who claimed that Berezovsky had deliberately set out to destroy the anti-organized crime department of the Federal Security Service because of the actions it had taken against Chechen hostage-taking. The low point of the program came when it showed segments from videos obtained by the FSB, one showing Basaev giving the order to a firing squad, another showing a Chechen gunmen cutting off the head of a captive with a knife. A warning was displayed prior to the segment (Center TV, October 24).

Meanwhile, Sergei Dorenko–the host of the main weekly “news analysis” program on Russian Public Television (ORT) and widely viewed as Berezovsky’s “hit man”–included last night a long segement devoted to discrediting Yuri Skuratov, the suspended prosecutor general. The Federation Council, the parliament’s upper chamber, which is made up of regional leaders, recently voted a third time to reject Yeltsin’s request to fire Skuratov.

The highlight–and low point–of Dorenko’s broadcast came with a long feature made up of segments from the video of a man who is quite obviously Skuratov in bed with two prostitute. These were interspersed with sections of Skuratov’s various speeches before the Federation Council, as well as statements of support from various governors–and particularly from Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. Luzhkov heads Fatherland-All Russia, which brings together a number of regional leaders.

Prior to the feature, Dorenko earnestly held forth about the public’s right to know and warned that children should not be allowed to watch it. The action was somewhat obscured by an animated prosecutor general’s uniform, which was used to cover part of the bed featured in the video, and subtitles, which were employed because of the poor quality of the audio. However, despite the fig leaves, little was left to the imagination (ORT, October 24).

In another feature, Dorenko claimed that former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, the other leader of Fatherland-All Russia, was seriously ill. This prompted Primakov to call NTV’s Itogi to deny the claim and denounce Dorenko (ORT, October 24; NTV, October 24).