Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 53

The vote not to accept Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov’s resignation will also probably be widely interpreted as a major slap in the Kremlin’s face, given that there have been many rumors that Skuratov has collected a mass of “kompromat” (compromising materials) on high-level officials, particularly those in the Kremlin inner circle. Reportedly, President Boris Yeltsin had already sent Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov a list of potential Skuratov successors earlier this week. Skuratov, reportedly with the help of the Swiss prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, was looking into alleged corruption involving the Kremlin’s “household” directorate, headed by Pavel Borodin, a long-time member of President Boris Yeltsin’s inner circle (see the Monitor, March 16). In January Swiss authorities raided the offices of the engineering-construction company Mabetex, which had concluded contracts with Borodin’s office for large renovation and construction projects involving the Kremlin and other government offices. The Swiss authorities, who reportedly seized documents from Mabetex’s offices, reported that the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office was investigating alleged kickbacks from the Swiss firm to high-level Russian officials. Some Russian media also reported that the Swiss also have evidence concerning the embezzlement of hundreds of millions of dollars from the Russian state budget into Swiss bank accounts.

One newspaper reported today said that Borodin’s department has been in a “panic” over what Skuratov may reveal, including the details of an alleged investigation into a “big and expensive home in Germany” reportedly owned by Tatyana Dyachenko, Yeltsin’s daughter and adviser (Argumenty i fakty, No. 11, March 1999; see the Monitor, March 16).

Earlier today, prior to the Federation Council vote, a key Council member, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, said he would vote against Skuratov’s resignation because it was not a vote “for or against the resignation but on whether we back the ongoing criminal activity or advocate laws, which are implemented by the prosecutor general and Prosecutor General’s office, albeit with some mistakes.” Luzhkov speculated that Skuratov may have been blackmailed into stepping down. One newspaper reported today that Luzhkov lobbied fellow Council members to vote against Skuratov’s resignation (Argumenty i fakty, No. 11, March 1999). Luzhkov is said to be regarded with extreme hostility by Yeltsin’s inner circle, though he was previously reported to have good relations with Borodin.

Prior to today’s vote, many Russian media had speculated that Skuratov would step down without a fuss because a sexually explicit video starring him and a woman not his wife might now be in the hands of all of Russia’s major television stations (Kommersant daily, Vremya-MN, March 17). According to rumors in the press, this tape was shot at a government dacha controlled by the Federal Security Service. Asked yesterday about whether any of Russia’s television channels possessed such a tape, Igor Shabdurasulov, general director of Russian Public Television (ORT), answered by saying that the Federation Council should accept Skuratov’s resignation immediately, “without any discussion.” Shabdurasulov quickly added that this was his own opinion, and that he would neither confirm nor deny the existence of such a tape. But he also said that along with unwritten rules governing the behavior of journalists and television, there are also those governing “the behavior of high-level officials” (Russian agencies, March 16; Komsomolskaya pravda, March 17).