Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 215

The Duma, meanwhile, was the center of another scandal yesterday. Viktor Ilyukhin, the radical communist deputy who heads the chamber’s security committee, claimed he was in possession of four power-of-attorney documents dating back to 1994–three of them signed by financier Boris Berezovsky, who is currently CIS executive secretary, a fourth signed by Oleg Boyko, founder of the now-defunct National Credit Bank–which handed over to President Boris Yeltsin the ownership and management rights to 26 percent of Russian Public Television (ORT). Ilyukhin called this “nothing other than latent bribery” of the Russian president. According to press reports, the package of shares in ORT allegedly handed over to Yeltsin were owned by LogoVAZ, the used-car company controlled by Berezovsky, United Bank (also controlled by Berezovsky), Alfa Bank and National Credit Bank. Berezovsky and National Credit Bank founder Oleg Boyko sat on ORT’s board at the time the power of attorney document were allegedly drawn up. The state owns 51 percent of ORT.

“Kommersant daily” today quoted Presidential Press Secretary Dmitri Yakushkin as saying that Yeltsin neither received nor held any ORT shares, nor engaged in any commercial activity. Yakushkin however, refused to answer when asked if he thought Ilyukhin’s documents were fake, the newspaper reported. ORT General Director Igor Shabdurasulov called Ilyukhin’s allegations “raving nonsense.” Berezovsky, however, told ORT anchor Sergei Dorenko Wednesday night (November 18) that the documents were real, but that the ORT shareholders had been forced to hand over the stake to Yeltsin by Aleksandr Korzhakov, the feared head of the Presidential Security Service until June 1996.

If the story is true, Yeltsin’s management-ownership rights to the shares ran out in December 1997. Additionally, according to “Kommersant daily,” Yeltsin’s involvement in commercial activity would not have been technically illegal. According to the newspaper, a 1993 Russian Federation law governing the presidency and prohibiting commercial activity was subsequently declared invalid and not replaced, while other laws forbidding officials from engaging in commerce do not mention the president (Russian agencies, November 18; Kommersant daily, November 19).

Meanwhile, court officials showed up at ORT offices yesterday to inventory furniture and equipment which may be sold off to pay the channel’s multimillion-dollar debt to government-owned transmitters. ORT General Director Igor Shabdurasulov said the company may face bankruptcy. ORT officials suggested that the inventory was part of an ongoing campaign against Russia’s television stations by the communist-dominated opposition (Moscow Times, November 19).