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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: To Protect And Serve, Not to Judge




There is an arrest warrant out for Boris Berezovsky, but Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin says he can't be bothered to enforce it. On Friday, Stepashin announced with amazing frankness that he "does not intend to arrest Berezovsky."


Why? As Stepashin explains, he expects Berezovsky will come back on his own to Russia, "present his explanations," and "this will be the end of it."


Berezovsky stands accused of embezzling and money laundering. Prosecutors say he skimmed off millions of dollars from Aeroflot's foreign ticket sales revenues. These accusations have been around for years - ever since Moskovsky Komsomolets reported in 1997 that Berezovsky had engineered the appointment of President Boris Yeltsin's son-in-law as general director of Aeroflot, and that he controlled a Swiss shell company that was siphoning off revenue from foreign plane ticket sales.


Yet the nation's top cop is flat out refusing to consider arresting him. He expects that Berezovsky will have "explanations." Maybe so, but that is for the courts to judge after hearing the evidence, and it is Stepashin's job to see that such a court hearing is held.


Stepashin makes a reasonable point in noting that Prosecutor General Yury Skuratov, who has charged Berezovsky, is an exasperating windbag - a man who brags about having evidence implicating the Kremlin in wrongdoing, yet never produces it.


Skuratov certainly should put up or shut up. That he does not suggests this prosecutor is less interested in justice than in intrigue.


But Stepashin is no stranger to intrigue either, and this probably helps explain his across-the-board contempt for the prosecutor: Stepashin is Yeltsin's man, and Yeltsin does not like seeing his circle investigated.


Then there are the bombs in Vladikavkaz, in Moscow at an FSB office, and in St. Petersburg, and Stepashin's announcement Friday of a wave of Chechen terrorism. Some observers have wondered if this isn't all a bit staged-looking.


Who would stage bombs? Either forces who want war with Chechnya, or forces who would "destabilize" Moscow, perhaps letting Yeltsin impose an "emergency" government.


Interestingly, Yeltsin sent his clearest signal yet Friday that he intends to sack Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, saying that "at this stage, Primakov is useful," and then adding ominously, "Later on, we will see."


Stepashin has spoken angrily about punishing Chechnya over the kidnappings of Interior Ministry officials. Stepashin is fighting the Kremlin's battles, slamming Skuratov and sheltering Berezovsky. And Stepashin has been mentioned as a likely replacement for Primakov. The stage is set for the impeachment showdown. Will Stepashin be the star?