In a vote described by some as a shock to the Kremlin, the Federation Council yesterday voted a second time not to accept the resignation of Yuri Skuratov as Russia’s prosecutor general. The parliament’s upper chamber voted 79-61 in favor of Skuratov keeping his job after Aleksandr Voloshin, President Boris Yeltsin’s chief of staff, took to the council’s podium and read out a short letter from the president asking the council’s members–all of them regional leaders, mostly governors–to support the removal of Skuratov. The prosecutor general was allegedly caught on film with two call girls, and is currently being investigated by the Main Military Prosecutor’s office for allegedly abusing his official position.
In his letter, Yeltsin, who suspended Skuratov earlier this month pending the outcome of that investigation, argued that uncertainty over “such an important question” as Skuratov’s fate would become a “weapon in the hands of criminal elements and unscrupulous politicians.” Yeltsin expressed certainty that the Council’s decision would “calm society and stabilize the political situation in the country” (Russian agencies, April 21).
Indeed, Yeltsin appeared to have reasons to think that the regional leaders would back him over Skuratov. One reason included the behavior of Skuratov himself. Few doubt that he was the man on the video, and the charges against him look even more serious on the face of reports that the prostitutes were provided by a banker who was under criminal investigation. A second reason for Kremlin confidence is that Yegor Stroev, the Council’s chairman, had said just before yesterday’s vote that while there was no unanimity over Skuratov among the Council members, the body’s position had changed from the last time the resignation of the prosecutor general came to a Council vote, when members voted overwhelmingly to back Skuratov. But perhaps the most important reason for the Kremlin’s apparent certainty that the vote would go its way was the fact that Yeltsin, earlier in the week, had been openly courting the governors, telling them both that he regarded them as his main base of support and that he wanted to give the regions more independence from the Center (Russian agencies, April 21).
SKURATOV SAYS HE’S READY TO WORK, KREMLIN SAYS HE’S STILL FIRED.