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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kremlin Lobbies for Removal of Chaika




President Boris Yeltsin has asked the Federation Council to endorse the replacement of acting Prosecutor General Yury Chaika with someone considered more loyal to the Kremlin, the council's deputy speaker said Thursday.


The move has been predicted by Russian media and political analysts for weeks. It extends the turmoil that has surrounded the Prosecutor General's Office since Yeltsin's failed attempts earlier this year to oust Prosecutor General Yury Skuratov.


Under the law, the Federation Council, parliament's upper house, must approve the dismissals and appointments of prosecutor generals.


Deputy speaker Vladimir Platonov said on NTV television that Yeltsin sent an official request Tuesday that Chaika be replaced by Vladimir Ustinov, the head of the prosecutor's office's North Caucasus directorate.


Ustinov was appointed to run the prosecutor's office last Friday after meeting Yeltsin's chief of staff, Alexander Voloshin. Ustinov was said to be filling in for Chaika while he took a vacation, but the move was widely viewed as a step toward a more permanent appointment.


Ustinov also file d a request for the Federation Council to approve the replacement, Platonov said. The council will take up the issue at its next session, he said, but only if Chaika himself attends. The next session is in October.


Platonov also warned Ustinov not to close high-profile investigations.


Platonov stressed that the possible change would not "influence the fate" of Skuratov, who was suspended earlier this year when a videotape was broadcast on national television purporting to show Skuratov in bed with two prostitutes. The president has asked the Federation Council to remove Skuratov permanently, but it has refused.


Skuratov contends that the Kremlin seeks his ouster to block investigation of several high-profile corruption cases.


Russian news agencies, citing anonymous government sources, reported that Chaika accepted an offer from Yeltsin to become deputy secretary of the president's advisory Security Council. The two met Thursday in the Kremlin, the reports said.


However, presidential press secretary Dmitry Yakushkin denied that Yeltsin and Chaika had met, and would neither confirm nor deny that Chaika had been offered the Security Council post.


Chaika has failed to obey orders coming from the presidential administration, and it is probably Ustinov's turn now to try to close these high-profile cases, Yury Bagrayev of the chief military prosecutor's office said on NTV.


Bagrayev was suspended from his post in the military prosecutor's office after calling for the termination of a corruption investigation into Skuratov.


Both Bagrayev and Platonov said Thursday that military prosecutors in charge of Skuratov's case have so far managed to find no evidence to support the allegations.


NTV cited sources in the military prosecutor's office as saying that Skuratov's case may be closed early next month, which would allow him to reassume his post. Skuratov's suspension remains in force as long as he is under investigation.


Under Chaika, the directorate in charge of investigating important cases has continued to probe allegations of corruption involving two members of Yeltsin's inner circle: media tycoon Boris Berezovsky and Pavel Borodin, the Kremlin's property manager.


In addition to Chaika, also likely to go are senior prosecutors Mikhail Katyshev and Vladimir Kazakov. They oversaw the main investigation department and were in charge of investigating important cases under Skuratov, but were transferred to other posts by Chaika.


Katyshev has refused to back down and has moved to undermine an investigation into a company run by Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov's wife, Yelena Baturina. Luzhkov has accused the Kremlin of engineering the investigation.


Katyshev told a meeting of his subordinates Wednesday that the Federal Security Service's investigation into Baturina's company contained many flaws.


He said the Prosecutor General's Office will be closely monitoring the investigation into whether Inteko has illegally transferred money to foreign banks.