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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Skuratov: Suspension By Yeltsin Unfounded




Prosecutor General Yury Skuratov on Monday dismissed President Boris Yeltsin's order to suspend him as legally unfounded, while other officials also questioned the criminal case Yeltsin used as the grounds for the suspension.


Continuing his fight to keep his job, Skuratov said he will speak Wednesday before parliament's lower house, the State Duma, to give his version of the events that have rattled Russia's political scene in recent weeks and further isolated Yeltsin.


Yeltsin has long been trying to get rid of Skuratov, who has been investigating alleged Kremlin corruption. But the president has failed to win the consent of parliament's upper house, the Federation Council - the only body that can authorize the dismissal.


Yeltsin suspended Skuratov on Friday, saying that a criminal case had been launched against the top prosecutor. The move set off a firestorm in parliament, where Communists and other Yeltsin foes called the move illegal.


Skuratov said Monday the decision to open a criminal case against him was "legally unfounded and deeply wrong," Interfax reported. Officials in the Moscow prosecutor's office, which launched the criminal case on Friday, backed away from it on Monday.


City Prosecutor Sergei Gerasimov criticized the way the case against Skuratov was launched. He said it was opened without his knowledge by one of his deputies after being called to the presidential administration late at night, Itar-Tass reported.


Gerasimov said the case was then turned over to the military prosecutor's office, the report said. A spokesman for the military prosecutor's office, however, denied knowledge of the case Monday.


Gerasimov said because of the "extraordinary conditions" under which the case was opened, its legality must be determined by the Prosecutor General's Office - Skuratov's office.


Without a criminal case existing somewhere, Yeltsin lacks a reason for suspending Skuratov.


The suspension was a shift in tactics on Yeltsin's part to avoid or delay another defeat in the Federation Council, several observers say. It does not require Federation Council approval, but halts Skuratov's activities while an investigation is conducted. Yeltsin has also asked the upper house again to fire him.


Leaders of the upper house met Monday to discuss the issue and sent letters to the Prosecutor General's Office asking whether the suspension was legal.


Skuratov submitted his resignation in February, then changed his mind in March, telling the Federation Council he had resigned under pressure from officials trying to thwart his Kremlin probe. The house told him to stay and press on with the investigation.


State-run television then aired segments of a video apparently showing Skuratov having sex with two prostitutes. Officials said the criminal case against Skuratov involved allegations that criminals paid for the women's services to entice Skuratov to drop investigations against them.


Skuratov's speech before the Duma on Wednesday may give new ammunition to Yeltsin's enemies before an impeachment debate against the president set for April 15.


Yeltsin got some good news Monday from Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who firmly said that Skuratov should be dismissed. Primakov enjoys broad backing in parliament, and his statement may influence lawmakers.