Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Kremlin's Bully Tactics A Bad Show




Kremlin vengeance may be swift, but it isn't terribly subtle. Take for example Thursday's search of the apartment and dacha of suspended Prosecutor General Yury Skuratov, who just last Friday kicked off a string of interviews with the Russian and Western press detailing his office's investigation of alleged Kremlin corruption.


Besides saying that his office is looking into possible corruption among as many as 780 government officials, and confirming that Boris Yeltsin and his family figure prominently in both Swiss and Russian investigations, Skuratov left a tantalizing threat lingering in the air: If his former colleagues show any sign of easing off the probe, he'll be back with even more dirt. Within a week, presto - his personal residences were suddenly of enormous interest to federal authorities.


Officially, the search was tied to an ongoing investigation into the suspended prosecutor, but Skuratov himself on Friday offered a more popular version - a good old-fashioned scare tactic, in return for the gimlet eye he continues to cast on Kremlin corruption.


The Kremlin likes to bully. Between Skuratov's brush with video fame last March - when Yeltsin managed to nudge him out of office after the broadcast of the tape showing the prosecutor with a pair of prostitutes - and Mabetex investigator Georgy Chuglazov's aborted trip to Switzerland in late August, the message is clear and consistent: back off.


This not-so-creative approach to justice is nothing new, and the mushrooming corruption allegations surrounding Yeltsin and his government are enough to put even the most implacable of leaders in a defensive mood. Which is why Yeltsin's statement Friday scolding Russia for failing to jump on the international bandwagon in fighting organized crime is a little tough to stomach.


If you can forget who's doing the talking, Yeltsin's latest reprimand almost sounds reasonable. Russia certainly should step up its anti-crime partnerships with Europe and the United States and join international commissions battling money laundering. But with billions of dollars streaming out of the country and all those alleged presidential American Express bills floating around, it's well near impossible to take such statements seriously. (Positioning U.S. President Bill Clinton as the hard-nosed arbiter of what is truth and what is fiction is an equally bad move. No more phone calls, please.)


Dirty politics is a fact of life, but are ham-handed tactics like digging through Skuratov's dacha as well? In a cynical world, the Kremlin's strategy is just bad theater. Come on, Boris. Throw the audience a bone. Give them something they can at least pretend to believe in.