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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bodyguard Report Prompts Investigation

Russia's public prosecutor, Valentin Stepankov, has launched an investigation into allegations that Boris Yeltsin's personal bodyguards profited by selling access to the president, a spokesman for the prosecutor said Tuesday.

Yeltsin requested the investigation after The Moscow Times and the "Vzglyad" television program reported that leaders of the president's security team had set up a semi-official agency that could arrange journalist's interviews with the president for money, his office said.

"After your article, after the 'Vzglyad' broadcast, the president told Stepankov to begin the investigation", a presidential spokesman, Yury Leonov, told The Moscow Times.

The developing "access for cash" scandal was discussed Saturday at a closed session of the Congress of People's Deputies, Leonov added. Yeltsin informed deputies of his request to start an investigation, and he is now awaiting the results.

"The usual way of doing something is first to begin an investigation and wait for results, and only when you have results, you can do something", the spokesman said.

Two likely focuses in the investigation, Alexander Korzhakov and Boris Ratnikov, the director and assistant director of Yeltsin's bodyguards, did not return repeated calls to their office for comment.

According to Yeltsin's former press secretary, Pavel Voshchanov, these two men nurtured a private company in the Kremlin called Alen that hawked exclusive interviews to the press.

Japanese television correspondents in particular said they had been offered interviews with Yeltsin by Alen for prices ranging from $35, 000 to $80, 000. No evidence indicating that Yeltsin knowingly sold his time has emerged.

Yeltsin's press officers have confirmed, however, that some journalists have managed to set up interviews without their knowledge or help, and that money may have played a role in these instances.

One interview arranged outside official channels was granted to Japanese NTV just before Yeltsin was expected to visit Japan last summer,

Yeltsin's press office says.

NTV's bureau chief, Toshiaki Takami, has said he pays Alen about $50, 000 for a year's supply of video images of Yeltsin, but he denied paying for a personal interview.

The Kremlin's Chief Directorate of Security Guards - which oversees affairs in the Kremlin and Red Square - has also empowered Alen to charge professional filmmakers and photographers for work in these areas, according to Kremlin officials.