Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 19

Several of Russia’s top law enforcement officials made separate statements yesterday about a number of ongoing high-profile criminal cases. Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, who was in Strasbourg to sign a European anticorruption agreement, promised that the murder of State Duma deputy Galina Starovoitova “will be solved,” and that “much progress has been made” in the investigation into her death. Starovoitova was killed in her apartment building last November. Stepashin said that Starovoitova’s aide Ruslan Linkov, who was severely wounded in the shooting, is actively cooperating with investigators. Stepashin said that investigators were not ruling out any motives for the crime, adding that “economic and political motives” are “indivisible.” He categorically denied, however, rumors that Starovoitova and Linkov were carrying “bags of money” from Moscow to St. Petersburg at the time of the shooting (Russian agencies, January 27). Friends and allies of Starovoitova have complained that the local St. Petersburg investigators are trying to build a case that Linkov himself was involved in the murder.

Stepashin said that the investigation into the 1994 assassination of “Moskovsky komsomolets” correspondent Dmitri Kholodov is nearly completed and that “the case will be handed over to court in the first half of this year.” Kholodov was investigating military corruption when he was killed in a bomb explosion. Several military officers have been arrested for possible involvement in the killing. Stepashin refused to comment on the investigation into the 1995 murder of television journalist Vladislav Listiev, saying the case is being handled by the Prosecutor General’s Office (Russian agencies, January 27).

Stepashin said that by signing the anticorruption convention, Russia will gain new tools for tracking assets illegally sent out of the country to Western banks. Stepashin said he plans to travel to Switzerland in March, where, among other things, he will investigate assets being held in accounts there, including “the old ones left over from the Soviet period” (Russian agencies, January 27). In 1992, the government of then Acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar hired Kroll and Associates, an international corporate detective firm, to help it find assets which ex-Soviet officials allegedly took out of Russia. Two years later, however, Kroll quit the case, saying its efforts had been thwarted by Russian officials.

Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov, meanwhile, promised that in a month to six weeks there will be “concrete results” from one of the three criminal cases which have stemmed from his office’s investigation into the activities of the Central Bank. Skuratov’s office has been looking into operations involving GKOs, Russia’s now-defunct treasury bills. Skuratov said “many” officials are being investigated, not only for misusing their official positions, but for laundering ill-gotten gains. Skuratov said his office will also soon make public elements of its investigation into the alleged embezzlement of US$180 million in jewels and precious metals, in which an American company–“Golden Ada”–and, allegedly, top Russian government officials were involved.

In the same vein, former Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov claimed yesterday that Russian entrepreneurs and foreign investors spend “about half of their incomes” on bribing Russian bureaucrats. Kulikov said in a radio interview that “corruption in Russia has reached… dimensions which ruin the economy,” and that economic reform will be impossible if corruption is not reduced to a “socially permissible level.” more than US$1 billion, he said, is taken out of Russia annually. Kulikov, who is now an ally of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, called for a special governmental anticorruption committee to be created, and to be headed by a top official, possibly even the prime minister (Russian agencies, January 27).