Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 65

The move against Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov–forced to resign in February but then reinstated by the Federation Council–came a day after Skuratov sent a report concerning money held by top officials in Swiss banks and approved new searches into alleged Kremlin corruption. Skuratov said that his report had not named names. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, however, claimed that Skuratov had sent Yeltsin the names of twenty people who had allegedly deposited US$40 billion in Swiss banks (Russian agencies, April 2). At the end of March, Carla Del Ponte, Switzerland’s top federal prosecutor, came to Moscow to meet Skuratov.

Skuratov himself said in an interview aired last night that he had been working with the Swiss authorities on criminal investigations involving three Swiss firms–Noga, Andava and Mabetex (NTV, April 4). The first firm was allegedly part of a corrupt deal back in the early 1990s involving Gennady Kulik, now a deputy prime minister. The second company, allegedly a front for tycoon Boris Berezovsky, is being investigated for its management of the hard currency revenues of Aeroflot airlines. Mabetex, meanwhile, secured a number of lucrative state construction contracts from Kremlin “property manager” Pavel Borodin; Skuratov’s office was investigating alleged bribes and abuse of office in dealings between top officials and the company. Skuratov’s investigators reportedly seized Kremlin documents concerning the case late last week, just before his suspension (Russian agencies, April 2).

According to Viktor Ilyukhin, a Communist Party radical who heads the State Duma’s security committee, and several newspapers, the decision to suspend the prosecutor general was made in a Kremlin meeting called after Skuratov sent his report on Russian money in Swiss bank accounts. The meeting was allegedly attended by: Aleksandr Voloshin, the recently appointed Kremlin administration chief who reportedly was a protege of former administration chief Valentin Yumashev and tycoon Boris Berezovsky; Tatyana Dyachenko, Yeltsin’s daughter and “image” adviser; and Anatoly Chubais, head of United Energy Systems (UES), Russia’s electricity grid (Segodnya, Tribuna, April 3). Skuratov last week reportedly launched a criminal investigation into charges that Chubais was illegally elected to head UES.

Both Ilyukhin and Zyuganov attacked the Kremlin for suspending Skuratov, and the question now remains what the Federation Council–the upper house of parliament, which last month voted not to accept Skuratov’s resignation–will do when it again has to consider Yeltsin’s decision to sack Skuratov. (The Council must approve the president’s decision). One newspaper speculated that the Council will this time support Yeltsin’s decision, because its speaker, Yegor Stroev, met last week Yeltsin about the firing and seems to be supporting the Kremlin this time (Kommersant daily, April 3). Another said Stroev would probably be overruled on Skuratov and that the Council would then move to back the Duma’s initiative to impeach Yeltsin, which is set for a vote on April 15 (Segodnya, April 3). A third paper predicted that the Federation Council would back Skuratov’s ouster but that the Kremlin “has turned the prosecutor general into a sufferer for the truth and has not been able to allay the suspicions towards itself concerning corruption” (Izvestia, April 3).