Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 54

One newspaper today said that the Kremlin had committed “one of the biggest mistakes in recent times” by trying to blackmail Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov with the sex videotape. “In attempting to dismiss Skuratov using old and dear kompromat [compromising materials] methods, Boris Yeltsin was not only not protected, but on the contrary, crudely exposed” (Kommersant daily, March 18). The newspaper also wrote that Yeltsin is operating now in “total isolation”–facing a hostile State Duma which wants to impeach him, a hostile Federation Council and even the Primakov government, against which the Kremlin has carried out a “consistent war.” The paper said that the Kremlin, by apparently using the sex video to question Skuratov’s moral character, had brought Yeltsin “no honor.”

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, meanwhile, hailed the Federation Council’s decision not to accept Skuratov’s resignation, saying that Skuratov’s enemies were the “same people who have been raping the country and robbing its citizens for seven years” (Russian agencies, March 18). For his part, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov denounced “government games” and the use of “discrediting material,” and said that the Primakov government should be left alone to work (Russian agencies, March 18). The Primakov cabinet itself has been the target of repeated corruption allegations in the press.

Some of those mentioned yesterday by Skuratov, however, counterattacked. Tycoon Boris Berezovsky said that Skuratov’s actions were part of a broader struggle: “It is all the same struggle of the communists for power by any means” (Kommersant daily, March 18). As of midday today, Moscow time, the Kremlin seemed to be backing down on the Skuratov scandal. Aleksandr Kotenkov, Yeltsin’s representative in the State Duma, said it was possible that Yeltsin will accept the Federation Council’s decision to keep Skuratov in office. Kotenkov also said that RTR television’s broadcasting of a fragment from the sex video was “absolutely criminal” (Russian agencies, March 18).