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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Skuratov's Exit Barred As Passport Is Annulled

Yury Skuratov, the prosecutor general suspended by President Boris Yeltsin last month, was blocked from leaving Russia to attend a corruption conference in Switzerland in what he said was a provocation by the secret services.

Skuratov was unable to board a flight Thursday because he was told his newly issued passport had been annulled, his lawyer Leonid Proshkin said Friday.

The Foreign Ministry said it was only a technical mistake. Clerks had accidentally committed "technical inaccuracies," an official in the ministry's consular service department said Friday. He would not elaborate.

Sources in this department told Russian news agencies that a new passport will soon be issued to Skuratov, although it would come too late from him to be able to attend the two-day conference in Lugano, which ended Friday.

"I consider this to be a case of lawlessness, a rude violation of my civil rights," Skuratov was quoted by Interfax as saying. Although he has been suspended and put under investigation, he has not officially been barred from leaving Russia.

Skuratov said he hoped the new passport will be issued soon enough to enable him to attend another law-enforcement conference in Germany.

Opposition leaders have repeatedly claimed that Yeltsin is trying to unseat Skuratov in order to foil his office's investigation into the alleged corruption of Kremlin officials.

The Prosecutor General's Office has been probing the activities of Swiss construction company Mabetex, which renovated Yeltsin's Kremlin residence and other official buildings under contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Skuratov said this investigation has been greatly assisted by Swiss Federal Prosecutor Carla del Ponte. It was Del Ponte who invited Skuratov to attend the Lugano conference this week.

Skuratov insisted that the annulling of his passport was no accident and accused the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office and Federal Security Service, or FSB, of organizing this "provocation."

The military prosecutor's office is investigating allegations that criminal suspects set up prostitutes for Skuratov in exchange for his dropping cases against them. It was the FSB that reportedly provided evidence of Skuratov's alleged contacts with prostitutes to prosecutors.

No charges have been brought against Skuratov.

Both agencies denied playing any role in annulling Skuratov's passport.

Sergei Ushakov, spokesman for the military prosecutor's office, said his agency "has nothing against" Skuratov leaving Russia.

But Ushakov said the FSB recently sent an inquiry to his office asking whether military prosecutors objected to Skuratov's plans to travel abroad.

The military prosecutor's office took over the probe into Skuratov from the Moscow city prosecutor's office in April.

Earlier this month a Moscow city court ruled to halt the probe, agreeing with Skuratov that the law prohibits a city prosecutor from opening a probe into the prosecutor general, who has greater authority.

Only the Federation Council, parliament's upper house, can sack the prosecutor general, and it has already turned down Yeltsin's appeals to do so twice.

Ushakov said the military prosecutor has already asked to the Supreme Court to reverse the city court's verdict.