Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 23

Yesterday’s events–particularly Skuratov’s resignation and the search of oil company Sibneft’s offices–have, not surprisingly, yielded a host of contradictory “versions.” The Sibneft search was reportedly made on the basis of allegations that a private security firm under Boris Berezovsky’s control had been spying on top government officials and members of President Boris Yeltsin’s family (Russian agencies, February 2; see also the Monitor, January 20, February 2). Officials of the Prosecutor General’s Office denied any link between Skuratov’s resignation and the Sibneft search. Yevgeny Lisov, head of the presidential administration’s control office, denied any conflict between Skuratov’s office and the Kremlin (Russian agencies, February 2). However “Moskovsky komsomolets” (MK), which broke the January story about the alleged spying on top officials and members of Yeltsin’s family, reported today that Skuratov’s resignation and the search of oil company Sibneft’s headquarters were linked. The newspaper, citing an “unofficial version” provided by unnamed government officials, reported that Skuratov had openly opposed the raid on Sibneft, and was forced to step down because he did so (Moskovsky komsomolets, February 3). Other media reported that the search order was signed not by Skuratov, but by one of his deputies (Russian agencies, February 2).

It was Skuratov, however, who had ordered a criminal investigation into the alleged spying the same day M-K published the story in January. M-K reported that “Atoll”–a private security firm said to be under Berezovsky’s control–had been raided last summer in connection with a separate criminal case. In that raid, police were said to have found both state-of-the-art espionage equipment and transcripts of telephone conversations and pager messages of various government officials and other VIPs, including Yeltsin’s daughter. M-K alleged that Berezovsky’s allies in the law-enforcement establishment suppressed this evidence.

Yesterday, twenty private residences and offices were searched in addition to the Sibneft offices. Both Sibneft officials and security officials said that the raid on Sibneft had nothing to do with the company’s business activities. Sibneft officials denied having any connection with Atoll (Russian agencies, February 2). However, as the Monitor has reported, Aleksandr Korzhakov, former head of the Presidential Security Service, alleged two months ago that Berezovsky had been blackmailing the Yeltsin family, threatening to reveal information about their alleged property holdings and bank accounts abroad. Korzhakov claimed that the Yeltsin family’s “cashier” was Sibneft general director Roman Abramovich.