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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NRB Raid Targeted Invasions of Privacy

Moscow prosecutors who raided the National Reserve Bank last week say they were looking for the source of a notorious web site that published private information about Russian politicians, but bank officials say they took away nothing but a few computer disks and a copy of the movie "Titanic."

Svetlana Petrenko, a spokeswoman for the Moscow Prosecutor's Office, said Friday's searches of the National Reserve Bank, or NRB, and of the Konus security firm attached to the bank were part of an investigation of "intrusions into the private lives of Russian officials."

That opaque phrase sounded like a reference to video footage shown on national television that has Prosecutor General Yury Skuratov pictured cavorting with two prostitutes. But Petrenko - who said that the case with the NRB had just been transferred from Skuratov's national prosecutor's office to the Moscow city prosecutor - "has nothing to do with the Skuratov case."

Petrenko also said the search of Konus had nothing to do with a similar search in February of Atoll, a security firm with offices attached to the major oil company Sibneft, a property under the thumb of tycoon Boris Berezovsky. Prosecutors then confiscated electronic eavesdropping devices and suggested Atoll had been spying on politicians - while Moskovsky Komsomolets, which had broken a similar story about Atoll some days earlier, said the victim of the spying was none other than President Boris Yeltsin.

Instead, she said, investigators were looking for evidence that the NRB and Konus were behind the mysterious Kogot web site, which appeared on the Internet for just a few hours on Nov. 26. Kogot offered reams of information about the Russian political, business and show-business elite - from their home addresses, family histories and mobile-phone numbers to purported transcripts of their answering-machine messages and telephone conversations.

Among those who were targeted by the Kogot web site were Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin and Skuratov.

Vladimir Krivosheyev, a spokesman for the NRB, disputed the claim by prosecutors that the NRB's offices were searched. He said that only the offices of Konus - which included some rooms at NRB's headquarters - were searched.

"Of valuables, they just took 'Titanic'," Krivosheyev said half-jokingly, adding that several computer hard and floppy disks were also confiscated.

Nikolai Zaitsev, director of Konus, denied that his company had ever had anything to do with Kogot or any other web site revealing personal information about Russian officials.

However, Zaitsev did not deny that his firm has been collecting detailed information on people and companies, for use in compiling special reports for the NRB.

"We have been taking such information from open publications, and it concerned potential clients and partners of the NRB," Zaitsev said.

Zaitsev said that most of his 130 employees at Konus had worked in the past for the Kremlin security service, which until 1996 was headed by former Yeltsin confidante Alexander Korzhakov.