Skuratov’s investigations of corruption and money laundering reach into some very high places, including the offshore affiliate and take-out laundry of the Russian Central Bank; the offices and offshore accounts of tycoons Boris Berezovsky and Aleksandr Smolensky; and the “household affairs” department of the Kremlin, which runs the hidden business empire the Russian presidency inherited from the Soviet Communist Party. President Yeltsin extracted the prosecutor’s resignation in early February, but the Federation Council in April rejected the resignation, 143-5-3. Yeltsin then suspended Skuratov and again extracted a letter of resignation, this time alleging that Skuratov–now under investigation himself, by a military prosecutor–had abused his office by accepting favors from persons he was supposed to be prosecuting.

To win the second vote, President Yeltsin had spent time and political capital negotiating with the governors and other regional leaders who make up the Federation Council, promising them greater autonomy and more clout in national affairs. But last week the Federation Council again rejected Skuratov’s resignation, this time by a vote of 76-61. An anonymous source believed to be Yeltsin’s chief of staff Aleksandr Voloshin immediately told the press that Yeltsin may dismiss Prime Minister Primakov and the cabinet and might even have Skuratov arrested. That would provoke a new confrontation between president and parliament on the eve of a vote on the impeachment of President Yeltsin, scheduled now to take place in the lower house around May 15.

[Correction: The April 12 Weekly gave an incorrect figure for Russia’s 1999 defense budget. The correct figure is 92.2 billion rubles, or about US$3.5 billion at current exchange rates.]