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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Sleaze Charges Targeted at Chubais

After a brief lull, the Kremlin sleaze war flared again Friday, when a Moscow daily published a transcript of secretly recorded conversations in which presidential chief of staff Anatoly Chubais allegedly conspired to save his skin by suppressing an investigation into massive fraud by him and his team in the presidential election campaign.


Moskovsky Komsomolets, the popular daily, devoted its main front page story to a transcript supposedly recorded June 22 at the height of the presidential election campaign in which Chubais, then President Boris Yeltsin's campaign chief, discusses his response to the climactic incident in his life or death struggle with arch-rival presidential body guard Alexander Korzhakov.


On June 19, with days left till the final round of voting, Korzkahov's men arrested two Chubais aides who they allegedly discovered carrying $500,000 of campaign funds out of the White House. Chubais turned the affair to his advantage, convincing Yeltsin to sack Korzhakov on the grounds that he was sabotaging Yeltsin's re-election.


But according to the transcript, Chubais then was forced to orchestrate a cover-up, warning Korzhakov to keep his mouth shut and pushing Russia's chief prosector Yury Skuratov to delay investigating the case.


According to the article, the bugged conversations allegedly took place in Chubais' office at the President Hotel, Yeltsin's campaign headquarters, and was recorded by "one of the domestic special services." The daily said it had no doubts about the recording's authenticity, though sections were inaudible.


Chubais quickly denied that the conversations had ever taken place and suggested that the transcripts were fabrications placed by Korzhakov himself.


"Such a conversation never took place and could not have taken place," he told Interfax, of Tula in the state Duma, a status which gives him immunity from criminal prosecution. Chubais was hinting Korzhakov had waited for immunity before publishing the transcripts.


Korzhakov has been at the center of a sleaze war over the past two months in which he, businessman Boris Berezovsky and figures associated with the shady National Sports Fund have accused each other of extortion of millions of dollars as well as attempted murder.


Korzhakov's press service refused to comment Friday on the possibility that he was involved, Interfax reported. Since his dismissal on June 20, Korzhakov has repeatedly warned that he has plenty of compromising material to use against Chubais when the time was right. As chief of the Kremlin guard, it is likely he would have had a wide network of phone taps of top officials.


Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky called the transcript an attempt "to stir up the public," the Associated Press reported Friday. "This war of compromising, or rather pseudo-compromising materials evokes a feeling of disgust," he said.


Through an aide, Prosecutor General Skuratov told Interfax that he had given an order that the alleged transcript be "carefully and objectively checked," on the basis of an already-existing criminal case.


Since late June, the prosecutor's office has been investigating the arrest of Arkady Yevstafiyev and Sergei Lisovsky, the two Chubais aides who were arrested by Korzhakov's guards outside the White House on June 19, allegedly carrying $500,000 of campaign funds in a Xerox paper box.


Immediately following their detention last June 19, NTV Independent Television, headed by Igor Malashenko, who at the time was also a leading Yeltsin campaign adviser, went on the air with a special broadcast, denouncing it as part of an attempted coup.


The two men were released hours after their arrest but the Federal Security Service, or FSB, continued to investigate the alleged removal of the $500,000. Yeltsin campaign officials, including Chubais, subsequently denied that his two aides were carrying the money, insisting they were framed.


In the alleged conversation, however, Chubais tells his close ally Viktor Ilyushin, Yeltsin's closest aide, that Korzhakov should be warned to keep his mouth shut about the case or face prosecution. Chubais says he has enough information on "thieving, murders and bloodshed" by Korzhakov to jail him for 15 years.


Chubais urges Ilyushin to convince Skuratov not to request that the case file on the two men from the Moscow branch of the Federal Security Service. Ilyushin, while saying he had earlier told Skuratov that the Yeltsin campaign did not want "any fuss" before July 3, the date of the second round of voting, expresses doubt that the transfer of the case can be prevented if Skuratov demands the material.


Chubais says the transfer can be prevented if Yeltsin talks to Skuratov and orders FSB director Nikolai Kovalyev "to delay."


Ilyushin then called Skuratov on the telephone and asked him to keep hold of the documents personally to prevent the information from leaking "to our enemy's camp."


The transcript, if genuine, also suggests that the Yeltsin campaign was awash with illegal campaign money. Ilyushin says he had told the president following the detention of the two campaign officials that "right now, if you want, a minimum of 15 to 20 people can be caught near the President Hotel who are carrying sports bags with money out of our building."


Chubais says Yevstafiyev understood how risky his work was, and strongly insists that both Yevstafiyev and Lisovsky be protected from prosecution. Chubais and Ilyushin even discuss "evacuating" the two to Finland by passing them off as members of conductor Svyatoslav Rostropovich's entourage.


In its own commentary Moskovsky Komsomolets reported that Korzhakov told Yeltsin that campaign money was being stolen and stashed abroad, and that Yeltsin had given him the authority to audit campaign expenditures.


The State Duma on Friday voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution calling on the prosecutor general to step up investigation of the criminal case involving the removal of the $500,000 from the Russian White House.


All the individuals allegedly caught in the phone taps have denied their authenticity. One Chubais aide said the tapes could not be authentic because in them he addressed Chubais with the familiar "ty" form of address, something he never permitted himself to do.