Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 66

As the Monitor has previously noted, the Skuratov scandal has potentially huge political ramifications, and could give the State Duma’s planned attempt to impeach Yeltsin a genuine impetus. Oleg Morozov, head of the leftist Russian Regions Duma faction, warned yesterday that if the Duma begins impeachment proceedings against Yeltsin on April 15, it might lead to the resignation of Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov or the firing of Maslyukov and Kulik. Morozov said that the best outcome would be for 298 deputies to vote for impeachment. A minimum of 300 votes are needed for the process to continue–that is, go to the Federation Council for a vote, and then to the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court for consideration. One newspaper reported today that, should the Duma vote pass an impeachment measure, Yeltsin will use his constitutional right to dissolve the Duma, which could set off a chain of events leading to both the banning of the KPRF and other “extremist parties” and the imposition of a state of emergency (Kommersant daily, April 6).

Igor Shchegolev, head of the government’s information office, said that Primakov believes that the controversy surrounding Skuratov is complicating the country’s internal political situation. Skuratov should thus step down as prosecutor general. At least one cabinet member, however, disagrees. On April 3, First Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Gustov said that Skuratov’s resignation “is not the best option for Russia.” Subsequently, both the government’s information office and Primakov’s press secretary felt it necessary to issue statements saying that Gustov’s comment did not reflect the official government view (Novoe izvestia, April 6).

In any case, both sides seem to be eyeing each other warily prior to Skuratov’s scheduled appearance before the Duma tomorrow. Oleg Sysuev, first deputy head of the presidential administration, said yesterday that the Kremlin is not expecting any “sensational revelations” from Skuratov, and warned that “a specialist of Skuratov’s rank must not come to resemble the [Duma] deputies, who rely on unconfirmed information, talking about accounts in Austria or Switzerland.” For his part, Skuratov said over the weekend that Swiss Federal Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte had called him to express her “support,” “solidarity” and surprise over the latest turn of events. The fact that a foreign official has become an uncontrollable variable in this controversy must be making a number of people very nervous, and Skuratov undoubtedly sees his close links with Del Ponte as a key trump card.

The Federation Council, which must approve the president’s hiring or firing of the prosecutor general, is expected to vote on Skuratov’s ouster at the end of the April. Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev this afternoon claimed Skuratov had just submitted his resignation, but some news agencies subsequently quoted Skuratov as denying he had done so, and as saying he would ask to stay on as prosecutor general if the Federation Council wanted him to.