In a move reported belatedly outside of Ukraine, President Leonid Kuchma has released Lt. Gen. Oleksandr Skipalsky from the position of chief of the Defense Ministry’s Main Directorate for Intelligence. Skipalsky was officially said to have resigned "in order to carry out his duties as a parliamentary deputy on a full-time basis." (UNIAN, January 16) The general, however, has been a bete-noire not only of his Russian counterparts and competitors, but also of Moscow political circles because of his image as a "Ukrainian nationalist." The otherwise unexplained ouster of Skipalsky may be interpreted as a conciliatory gesture toward Moscow on the part of Kuchma, who on January 17 in Belarus worried aloud that "Russian-Ukrainian relations are systematically deteriorating" (Interfax-Ukraine, UNIAN, January 17-18)
Because of its timing, the measure may also be traced to a scandal triggered by the Kiev newspaper Vseukrainskie Vedomosti. On January 14 it published a "top secret" memo, allegedly submitted in October 1996 by Russia’s then-deputy foreign minister, Sergei Krylov, at the request of President Boris Yeltsin’s foreign policy adviser, Dmitri Rurikov. The purported memo outlines a plan to engineer Kuchma’s removal from office through a combination of diplomatic pressures and political maneuvers in Ukraine. The Russian government denounced the publication as disinformation originating with Ukrainian intelligence and has demanded an investigation. If the release of Skipalsky is unrelated to this incident, the timing of Kuchma’s move is ill-advised for suggesting a possible connection.
Ripples in Tbilisi from Moscow CIS Meeting.