Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 67

The political ramifications of yesterday’s arrest warrants by the Prosecutor General’s Office for Boris Berezovsky and Aleksandr Smolensky remain murky. Dmitri Yakushkin, President Boris Yeltsin’s spokesman, said Yeltsin had not been notified in advance about the warrants. Other Kremlin sources were quoted as saying that they had been a surprise (ORT, Russian agencies, April 6). The arrest warrants were reportedly ordered by Mikhail Katyshev, a deputy prosecutor general, who was then immediately removed as head of the Prosecutor General’s Office’s main investigations department by Yuri Chaika, who was made acting prosecutor general last week after Yeltsin suspended Yuri Skuratov from the post (Russian agencies, April 6).

Katyshev, who is viewed as a Skuratov ally and is reportedly close to the State Duma’s Communist faction, has so far kept his deputy prosecutor general post. The move against him, however, suggests the that arrest orders were inspired by Skuratov, and not by the Kremlin. On the other hand, the move against SBS-Agro’s Smolensky can also be seen as a blow to Deputy Prime Minister Gennady Kulik, a member of the leftist Agrarian Party, whose son is deputy chairman of SBS-Agro’s board of directors.

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov said there were “serious grounds” for the order to arrest Berezovsky, and praised the Prosecutor General’s Office for having become more decisive. Luzhkov said that Russian law enforcement must now concentrate on returning capital which has left the country and that the organizers of financial pyramids should also be punished. For his part, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said Russian law enforcement should have acted more “bravely and in a more principled fashion” by issuing the arrest warrant when Berezovsky was still in Russia, not when he was abroad. Zyuganov also said it was possible that the Kremlin circle had decided to “give up” Berezovsky in order to save itself.

Meanwhile, Sergei Yushenkov, a State Duma deputy and vice chairman of Russia’s Democratic Choice, noted that his party had always opposed Berezovsky’s appointments to high government posts (the tycoon served as Security Council secretary and then as CIS executive secretary) and that Berezovsky had worked against the “young reformers”–meaning Anatoly Chubais and Boris Nemtsov, among others–who were in the government during 1997-1998. On the other hand, Yushenkov, noting Berezovsky’s strongly anti-Communist position in recent months, said he was worried that the arrest order was politically motivated (Russian agencies, April 6).

Some observers saw the arrest warrants as a major victory for Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who has been in open confrontation with Berezovsky. Primakov is believed to have given the green light for the searches earlier this year of Berezovsky-linked businesses, including Aeroflot, the Sibneft oil company and the Atoll private security firm.