Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 52

Yuri Skuratov, who last month asked to be relieved of his duties as Russia’s prosecutor general but showed up again for work last week, is set to appear tomorrow before the Federation Council, the upper house of Russia’s parliament, to explain his decision to step down. Speculation has been whirling around Skuratov’s fate (see the Monitor, March 15), and it continued today.

“Kommersant daily” reported that Skuratov will not use his planned appearance tomorrow before the Federation Council to reveal details of high-level corruption. The paper repeated the story that Skuratov was filmed at a government dacha in a liaison with a woman who was not his wife, and reported that the material will be used if he “tells too much.” According to the paper, Yeltsin has handed Primakov a list of three candidates to replace Skuratov as prosecutor general–Yevgeny Lisov (a deputy head of the presidential administration and a former official in the prosecutor general’s office), Mikhail Katyshev (currently a deputy prosecutor general) and Oleg Kutafin (rector of the Moscow Legal Academy).

On the other hand, “Kommersant daily” reported that Kremlin insiders are very worried about what Skuratov will say tomorrow–so much so that Pavel Borodin, head of the Kremlin’s “housekeeping” department, has checked into the Central Clinical Hospital with heart problems, just as Skuratov did after stepping down in February (Kommersant daily, March 16).

At the end of January, shortly before Skuratov stepped down, Swiss law-enforcement agents raided the offices of Mabetex, a construction-engineering firm (see the Monitor, March 15). The raid, during which documents were seized, was carried out on the basis of a November 1998 request from Skuratov for assistance with an investigation into alleged corruption and abuse of authority by high-level Russian officials.

Mabetex has been involved in several large Russian state construction projects, including the restoration of the Kremlin. The French newspaper “Le Monde” reported last month that one of Mabetex’s co-presidents had registered in his name a “palace” which Tatyana Dyachenko, Yeltsin’s daughter and adviser, had asked to be built for her outside Moscow in 1966. “Le Monde” also followed up on a story originally reported by Britain’s “Independent” in 1997, that Mabetex had purchased two yachts for Yeltsin, together costing US$500,000 (Moskovskie novosti, March 16-22). Meanwhile, another newspaper, citing unnamed sources, wrote today that the joint efforts the Swiss and Russian prosecutors had discovered “huge” sums of hard currency–hundreds of millions of dollars–in Swiss bank accounts which had been diverted from the Russian state budget (Moskovsky komsomolets, March 16).

Switzerland’s chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, who apparently forged a close working relationship with Skuratov, is reportedly due to arrive in the Russian capital this week.