Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 22

Sibneft, Russia’s seventh largest oil company, controlled by Boris Berezovsky, was raided today by Federal Security Service spetsnaz troops on the order of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office. Also today, General Prosecutor Yuri Skuratov handed in his resignation for health reasons, and checked into the Central Clinical Hospital, reportedly with heart problems (NTV, February 2).

The search of Sibneft’s Moscow offices was reportedly connected with a criminal case which the General Prosecutor’s office recently opened concerning allegations by the daily newspaper “Moskovsky komsomolets” (M-K). M-K alleged that a private security firm under Berezovsky’s control was eavesdropping on top government officials and on members of President Boris Yeltsin’s family, including his daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko, who is an adviser to the president. NTV reported today that the order to search Sibneft’s headquarters was signed by Skuratov’s deputy. It was unclear, therefore, whether Skuratov’s resignation was connected with the Sibneft raid. If it was connected to the raid, the key question is whether Skuratov refused to sign off on it, or, rather, was removed as a result of Berezovsky’s intervention.

The raid may simply have been connected to Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov’s promise to crack down on economic crime. Over the weekend, Primakov, who is known to dislike Berezovsky, said there would be a wide-ranging prisoner amnesty to make room in prisons for perpetrators of economic crimes. Russian media quoted Berezovsky, who has gone increasingly public with his criticisms of Primakov, as saying Primakov’s new drive against economic crime was “bringing us back to the Soviet times” of little security under the law (Moscow Times, Dow Jones Newswire, February 2). Sibneft, like others among Russia’s top oil companies, is heavily indebted to the state.