Just a day after Russia’s Supreme Court gave the Main Military Prosecutor’s office a green light to continue its criminal investigation of suspended Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov (see the Monitor, June 23), Skuratov yesterday canceled his plans to visit Switzerland at the invitation of Swiss federal prosecutor Carla del Ponte. At the end of May, the Russian Foreign Ministry prepared a new passport for Skuratov–an ordinary one rather than the official one he had prior to his suspension as prosecutor general–but delayed issuing it, citing “technical” problems. Several days later, after Skuratov had missed a conference in Switzerland of law enforcement officials devoted to the international fight against corruption, the ministry said that Skuratov could pick up his new passport. Yesterday, however, Skuratov accused the Russian Foreign Ministry of attempting to make his trip impossible out of fear of his continued cooperation with del Ponte on criminal cases involving high-level corruption in the Russian government. For its part, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov claimed that the ministry had “done nothing to complicate any foreign trip” by Skuratov. Skuratov said he did not want to travel to Switzerland in a private capacity, which he said del Ponte had suggested (Russian agencies, June 23).
According to some reports, Del Ponte is being pressured by the Swiss authorities–specifically, the Swiss foreign ministry–which view her as having delved to deep into Russia’s internal affairs. Thus Skuratov was issued a Swiss visa by that country’s foreign ministry, but if he does make it to Switzerland, he will have to finance it personally and will not be allowed to meet with Swiss prosecutors and exchange information (Kommersant, June 24). The bottom line, thus, is that even though Skuratov has not been formally removed as prosecutor general–this requires the approval of the Federation Council, which has several times voted against firing Skuratov–the Swiss authorities have evidently decided to view Skuratov, as does the Kremlin, as Russia’s former prosecutor general.
The apparent concerns in both Russia and Switzerland about potential meetings between del Ponte and Skuratov give some credence to the repeated reports in the Russian press that Del Ponte, as one newspaper put it today, “regularly supplied Skuratov with financial documents in which well known names in Russia figured” and that during a visit to Moscow in March she brought with her “valuable operational information on bank accounts of the presidential inner circle” (Kommersant, June 24).
Meanwhile, the press service of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office reported that acting Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika discussed with Del Ponte today, in a telephone conversation, issues relating to further cooperation between Russia and Switzerland in the fight against organized crime (Russian agencies, June 24).
MOSCOW MULLS RUSSIAN-JAPANESE SUMMIT.