. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Korzhakov Scandal May Foil Lebed Plan

Allegations this week that former presidential bodyguard Alexander Korzhakov was part of a Kremlin gangster ring could be used to thwart a possible alliance between Korzhakov and presidential hopeful Alexander Lebed, experts said Tuesday.

Two days after Boris Fyodorov -- the former director of the highly lucrative National Sports Fund -- went on national television accusing Korzhakov of being in a "state racket" and trying to extort $40 milion, the Prosecutor General's Office said no formal complaint had been filed.

But experts said that just how far the prosecutor's office intends to take the investigation into Fyodorov's explosive allegations may depend on national security chief Lebed.

Experts said that Fyodorov's accusations were so damning that it is only a matter of time before an investigation involving Korzhakov, sacked sports minister Shamil Tarpishchev, and Colonel Valery Streletsky, Fyodorov's replacement at the National Sports Fund, takes off.

But if Lebed does not learn -- as Boris Yeltsin advised last week -- to work peacefully with the rest of the Kremlin team, and continues to seek to ally with Korzhakov, sacked from the Kremlin three months ago, the investigation may be taken up sooner rather than later.

"The investigation will be used to put pressure on both Korzhakov and Lebed," said Sergei Markov, an analyst at the Moscow Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, referring to the unexpected alliance of the two generals that began with Lebed's support of Korzhakov in his bid for a seat on the Duma.

"If Lebed continues his campaigning, the clash will be tougher, and the investigation will develop," Markov said.

In an interview with Izvestia on Tuesday, Streletsky, a key figure in the extortion allegations and Fyodorov's successor at the National Sports Fund, described as "gibberish" Fyodorov's accusations that he and Korzhakov tried to extort $40 million.

Streletsky said the $40 million in question, which was in fact a government grant given to the National Sports Fund, had actually disappeared without a trace when Fyodorov was in charge.

Fyodorov, who headed the National Sports Fund, a shadowy body which is believed to have earned billions of dollars in revenue importing alcohol and cigarettes duty-free, was fired last May and was brutally attacked one month later in an apparent assassination attempt.

Fyodorov has protested his innocence and accused Korzhakov, sacked former Federal Security Service chief Mikhail Barsukov, and Tarpishchev of illegal transactions.

Alexander Konovalov, an analyst at the Institute for USA and Canada Studies said Fyodorov would not likely have come forward with the accusations if Korzhakov and Barsukov -- who were both fired June 20 -- were still in power.

"Korzhakov is no longer officially in a position to easily intercept or halt the investigation process," Konovalov said. Fyodorov, who says he fears for his life, fled the country after the attack in May and gave his interview from an undisclosed country outside Russia.

It is likely that Fyodorov got a signal from a Kremlin insider ensuring that state structures could offer him protection if he came forward, Konovalov said. That signal, he added, may have come from Anatoly Chubais, Yeltsin's chief of staff and long-time Korzhakov opponent.

"Korzhakov and Chubais come from two completely different ideologies," said Konovalov. If Chubais tried to pursue legal means to win the presidential election, Korzhakov, Konovalov said, wanted to cancel the second round and then cut a power-sharing deal with communist opponent Gennady Zyuganov, "leaving Yeltsin as the Queen of England."

If the prosecutor does plan to move against Korzhakov, he will have to work quickly. The president's former bodyguard is running for a seat in the parliament and if elected he will enjoy parliamentary immunity from prosecution.