Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 190

The Kremlin was handed a major defeat yesterday when the Federation Council, the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament, voted 98 to 52 to reject President Boris Yeltsin’s decision to dismiss Yuri Skuratov as prosecutor general. According to Russia’s constitution, the president must get the approval of the Federation Council to remove a prosecutor general. Yeltsin suspended Skuratov earlier this year pending the outcome of a criminal investigation of Skuratov for allegedly consorting with prostitutes provided by an influential banker who was himself under criminal investigation. A clip from a video allegedly showing Skuratov with the call-girls was broadcast on state television. Despite such moves, the Federation Council twice voted against Yeltsin’s decision, and yesterday it defied him a third time.

Skuratov was responsible for launching various high-level corruption investigations. These cases involved kickbacks allegedly paid by the Swiss construction firm Mabetex to Kremlin officials, the alleged diversion of more than US$200 million from Aeroflot state airlines to Swiss front companies allegedly controlled by Boris Berezovsky, and the profits allegedly made by top Russian government officials through insider trading on Russia’s now-defunct state treasury bill market. Skuratov said earlier this week that reports in the Western press, concerning credit cards that Mabetex allegedly provided to Yeltsin and his two daughters, Tatyana Dyachenko and Yelena Okulova, were true (Russian agencies, October 11). Yesterday, prior to the vote on his fate, Skuratov addressed the Federation Council, telling the regional leaders who make it up that the “driving force” behind the attempts to oust him were the “personal interest of the president and his family,” and declaring: “Either we all try to stem the tide of corruption and salve whatever authority our country still has in the world community… or the Federation Council will follow the path indicated for it by the corrupt Kremlin officials.”

During the speech and in an interview following the vote, Skuratov said that top investigators in the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service have been removed from high-profile corruption cases. He also warned the regional leaders that the Kremlin was trying to subordinate Russia’s law enforcement agencies to itself and turn them into a repressive “fist” which could be used against its enemies, including the regional leaders themselves (Russian agencies, NTV, October 13).