Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 211

Former Kursk Oblast Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi said yesterday that he plans to take the region’s new governor, Aleksandr Mikhailov, to court for comments made in an interview published yesterday in the daily newspaper Kommersant. In his interview with Kommersant, Mikhailov, a member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) who earlier this week won the Kursk governorship by defeating Viktor Surzhikov in a runoff, accused Rutskoi and members of his former administration in Kursk of stealing public funds. Rutskoi and some of his associates are under criminal investigation for various alleged violations, including the charge that they abused their official positions during the election campaign. On October 21, just hours before polls opened in the first round of voting for Kursk governor, the oblast’s court disqualified Rutskoi as a candidate on the grounds that he had provided erroneous information about his personal property and misused his official position in carrying out his elections campaign. He appealed the oblast court’s ruling to the Constitutional Court, but the higher court upheld the decision (see the Monitor, November 7).

Mikhailov also said in his Kommersant interview it was “absolutely untrue” that the Kremlin backed Surzhikov, former head of the Kursk branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB), during the campaign. The new Kursk governor claimed that he had met twice with President Vladimir Putin’s “personal representative,” whom Mikhailov would not name, but described as being “a woman,” Putin’s “personal psychologist” and someone who plays a “key role” on Putin’s team. Mikhailov claimed that he and Putin’s emissary worked together to secure his, Mikhailov’s, victory in Kursk. The governor-elect also claimed that the tycoon Boris Berezovsky and the Russian Jewish Congress stood behind Rutskoi. “And we beat them here,” said Mikhailov. “I think this is symptomatic and speaks to the fact that Russia today is starting liberate itself from this foulness which has accumulated over the last ten years,” Mikhailov told Kommersant. “Here we are allies with the president, not opponents. Vladimir Vladimirovich, by the way, is a Russian person. And I am, too. But Rutskoi’s mother, in case anyone does not know, is a Jew–Zinaida Iosifovna.” Elsewhere in the interview, Mikhailov promised that he would put portraits of Lenin and Putin on the walls of his governor’s office, saying of Putin: “He is the president today, and I respect the choice of the people” (Kommersant, November 9).

Rutskoi charged yesterday that Mikhailov’s comments were characterized by “unceremoniousness bordering on nationalism.” Rutskoi said that his lawyer was preparing a lawsuit against Mikhailov, and that he, Rutskoi, was planning to travel soon to Moscow–presumably to file the suit. Rutskoi said that if Putin has respect for the Russian people, he must give an explanation for Mikhailov’s comments (Radio Ekho Moskvy, November 9). For its part, the Russian Jewish Congress released a statement yesterday expressing its “extreme concern about the comments of the new Kursk governor” and saying that it hoped that the presidential administration would react to Mikhailov’s comments “properly.” At the same time, the Congress said that comments along the lines of Mikhailov’s concerning “liberation from foulness” were usually the product of a “sick imagination,” and thus the Congress could not take them but so seriously. The Congress, however, expressed hope that the presidential administration would address Mikhailov’s claim of having a “union” with Putin for this “liberation” (Russian agencies, November 8). Thus far, the Kremlin has not reacted to Mikhailov’s interview.