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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Skuratov: Home Searches Were Made to Scare Him

Suspended Prosecutor General Yury Skuratov said Friday that searches of his home and dacha this week were an attempt by authorities to hinder an investigation he initiated earlier this year into Kremlin corruption.

On Thursday, investigators searched Skuratov's Moscow apartment and his country residence, ostensibly seeking materials in a months-old investigation into the suspended prosecutor.

But those searches came hot on the heels of a series of headline-making interviews Skuratov had given to Western and Russian media. In those interviews, he alleged that a probe into Kremlin graft by Russian and Swiss investigators reached all the way to President Boris Yeltsin, his family and closest aides.

In a telephone interview Friday, Skuratov said Thursday's searches were "designed to scare" him.

"This is a reaction to the degree of frankness I had allowed myself in my recent interviews with the media," he said.

Over the past week, Skuratov has said that his office was investigating whether 780 current and former government officials abused their posts in trading on high-yield treasury bills prior to last August's financial meltdown. He also said that the head of the Swiss construction firm Mabetex, which won lucrative Kremlin renovation contracts, had paid off credit card bills totaling $1 million issued in the names of Yeltsin and his two daughters. Skuratov and Swiss investigators say Mabetex may have paid out as much as $10 million in bribes to high ranking Kremlin officials.

In an interview published this week in the newspaper Versia, Skuratov threatened to reveal further details about the probe if his former colleagues in the prosecutor's office showed signs of backing off the investigation.

Skuratov fell out of grace with Yeltsin earlier this year when he, together with Swiss federal prosecutor Carla del Ponte, began investigating the Kremlin's financial relations with Mabetex. Skuratov also began investigating tycoon and Kremlin insider Boris Berezovsky, whom his office suspected of siphoning off money from the state-owned Aeroflot airline.

Yeltsin suspended Skuratov in April after RTR state television broadcast a tape of a man resembling him in bed with two prostitutes. Yeltsin tried to fire Skuratov but the Federation Council, which must approve the hiring and firing of prosecutors, refused to ratify the move.

After the videotape was broadcast, Vladimir Putin, then director of the Federal Security Service, said there was evidence that the prostitutes were paid for by a man who was under investigation by Skuratov's office. A criminal case was then opened against Skuratov. Thursday's searches were supposedly an effort to find evidence in that case.

Skuratov said Friday, however, that during the searches, investigators were clearly looking for materials related to Mabetex. "It was clear what they were looking for," he said.

Skuratov said investigators took away suits, family archives, photos, videotapes and "irrelevant" documents."

The Mabetex case has puttered on despite what appear to be repeated attempts by the Kremlin to stall it. Yury Chaika, who served as acting prosecutor after Skuratov's suspension, was himself sacked last month and later appointed Justice Minister. And last week, Georgy Chuglazov, a senior prosecutor investigating the Mabetex case, was "promoted" - and taken off that case - just as he was preparing to fly to Switzerland to meet with investigators there.