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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Korzhakov's Mud Sullies All Kremlin

To say that sleaze season has opened over the past few weeks does not begin to describe the rash of accusations and counter-accusations being flung among Russia's rivals for power as they jockey for position. This particular mud-fight is swimming in blood.


There seem, at the risk of gross over-simplification, to be two main camps involved -- namely the pro- and anti-Lebed camps -- both of which are using proxies in order to throw the dirt.


On the Lebed side there is Alexander Korzhakov, the disgraced chief of President Boris Yeltsin's security service. And on the government side Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov, former National Sports Fund chief Boris Fyodorov and Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov are making the public running.


Korzhakov let it be known just weeks ago that he wanted to join forces with Lebed and that he was preparing to let fly with compromising information about the men currently in power. What he will say at Friday's threatened press conference is unclear, but Korzhakov is widely believed to have bugged the offices of the Kremlin administration, so he doubtless knows a great deal.


Korzhakov has made a spectacular start. He has accused one of Russia's most powerful backroom power brokers, Boris Berezovsky, of asking him to have several bankers and politicians murdered, including Luzhkov.


In response, Fyodorov has been trotted out onto national television to discredit Korzhakov, saying he and the recently sacked sports minister, Shamil Tarpishchev, tried to extort $40 million from Fyodorov shortly before he was fired and then shot and stabbed in an attempted contract killing.


Now the current Sports Fund chief has accused Fyodorov of threatening to kill his children unless he made sure Fyodorov was reinstalled as the fund's head.


The terrifying thing about all this is that one suspects it is only the beginning, that the worst fears the most optimistic of us have harbored concerning the reach of crime into the Kremlin are being confirmed.


This is not because we necessarily believe, for example, that Berezovsky asked for all those heads. But the unstated subtext of Korzhakov's story is that he was a natural person for Berezovsky to turn to for an assassination job. Moreover, having been asked to do the hit, Korzhakov admits he did not expose Berezovsky for two years.


It is impossible to say how much of all this is true or will ever be proved. But as the tired saying goes, mud sticks. It will stick to everybody involved, including the people throwing it, those who are having it thrown and the entire executive branch. And it will stick, above all, in the minds of a population already deeply disappointed by its leaders.