Yuri Skuratov, the prosecutor general or chief prosecutor of the Russian Federation, resigned his post February 2 and unresigned it on the sixteenth of March. In a stunning rebuke to President Boris Yeltsin, the Federation Council, the upper house of Russia’s parliament, rejected Skuratov’s resignation 142-5-3.
Skuratov had told the Council that his resignation, which Yeltsin had accepted, had been forced upon him by political figures who fear his investigations. These include a probe of the tycoon Boris Berezovsky, a long-time Yeltsin supporter; an investigation of the Central Bank and the market for short-term treasury bills (GKOs); and a look at possible fraud, embezzlement, and money laundering in connection with contracts let by the Kremlin’s “household affairs” office to a Swiss construction company.
For President Yeltsin, the third of these may be most troubling. The “household affairs” directorate runs a not-so-small empire of resorts, clinics, dachas and other enterprises which had belonged to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union before 1991. Its accounting is mysterious, and the president’s daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko, is said to have a hand in its activities. Two months ago, the president placed the household-affairs director under the direct supervision of his chief of staff, Nikolai Bordyuzha. Last week, in the wake of the Federation Council’s vote, Yeltsin fired Bordyuzha. That firing will stick.
When Skuratov resigned, allegedly for reasons of health, there were rumors that he had been caught on videotape consorting with prostitutes. Just before the Federation Council vote, state-owned RTR television broadcast images from the tape. Two years ago, publication of a photo of Justice Minister Valentin Kovalev with hookers in a sauna prompted Kovalev’s unlamented resignation, but this time the ploy backfired. Several Russian lawmakers compared Skuratov to Bill Clinton, unfairly compelled to suffer the exposure of sordid but private behavior.