Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 170

Kremlin administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin has reportedly warned major American media to put an end to “the anti-Russian campaign of slander.” Voloshin, in a letter sent to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Newsweek, reportedly said that the administration of President Boris Yeltsin is ready to use “the entire force of international law” to end the alleged slander campaign, which he said was connected with “a certain invented financial scandal.” Voloshin also called the “malicious accusations” of corruption aimed at Yeltsin “exclusively political in character” and said that attempts to link the Russian president with the “so-called financial scandal” were “an act of political provocation.” He warned the U.S. publications “to thoroughly weigh the possible consequences” of their involvement in “an unprecedented campaign aiming to discredit Russia and its president” (Itar-Tass, September 14).

While Voloshin’s wrath, at least in this letter, was directed at the American press, some of the most relentless reporting on Russian corruption, including charges aimed at Yeltsin himself, has appeared in Western European publications like Italy’s Corriere della Serra. And France’s Paris Match got into the act last week, reporting that the tycoon Boris Berezovsky and Tatyana Dyachenko, Yeltsin’s daughter and adviser, visited a castle in Bavaria this past spring, which was subsequently bought by “Russian purchasers” for US$20 million. The magazine reported that the purchaser was in fact Roman Abramovich, the head of the Sibneft oil company and a member of the Kremlin inner circle, through a company located in Liechtenstein (Paris Match, September 9).

Despite the Kremlin’s “attack the messenger” strategy, the media–including some in Russia–show no sign of backing off. A new wrinkle in the Kremlin corruption scandal appeared yesterday, that the vice president of Mercata Trading, the general contractor for reconstructing the Kremlin and an affiliate of the Swiss construction firm Mabetex, is Anatoly Siletsky, the son-in-law of Pavel Borodin, head of the Kremlin’s property department. The same account suggested that the president of Mercata Trading, Viktor Stolpovskikh, was an adviser to former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin (Vedmomosti, September 15). Stolpovskikh reportedly remains on the executive council of Our Home Is Russia, the political movement founded by Chernomyrdin (Moskovsky komsomolets, September 14).

The contracts for refurbishing the Kremlin were worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and Swiss investigators are investigating whether Mabetex gave kickbacks to top Russian officials, including Borodin. According to one of the main witnesses in that investigation, Filip Turover, once an adviser to Switzerland’s Banca del Gottardo, which serviced Mabetex’s accounts, the bank held a “gigantic” number of accounts of top Russian officials–many more than the fifty-nine accounts mentioned in various press reports. Turover said that while working for Banca del Gottardo, he had heard some of the names of some of these account holders: Chernomyrdin, former Kremlin administration chief Valentin Yumashev, former privatization chief Maxim Boiko and former Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov. Turover also gave details of credit cards he said were opened in the Banca del Gottardo in 1993 for Yeltsin and members of his family (Moskovsky komsomolets, September 14).

Russian media friendly to the Kremlin have portrayed Turover as an ally of Yuri Skuratov, Russia’s suspended prosecutor general, and noted that he has been investigated by Russian law enforcement.