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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Skuratov Campaigns To Reveal Real Putin

He says he is running for president in order to expose Vladimir Putin. And as soon as he is formally registered as a presidential candidate, Yury Skuratov says he will strike.

"My Plan A is to win [the election], because it is impossible to go on with the idea of the heir of the corrupt Yeltsin regime. Putin is the continuation of this regime. Many Russians, many serious political forces in Russia, do not want to live with that," said Skuratov, the ousted prosecutor general, in an interview this week.

"But Plan B is to gain the public's attention, and to say everything I have to say. I have to say who Putin really is, what sort of relationships exist among the corrupt Kremlin elite, and many, many other things."

Skuratov earned international fame when he began to investigate corruption scandals that were said to lead to former President Boris Yeltsin's family. Soon after, the Kremlin began to seek his removal - and then state-owned national television stations broadcast a video, of unknown origin, that had Skuratov frolicking in bed with prostitutes.

Skuratov's allies say the Kremlin conjured up the video to blackmail him into silence. Since his suspension, Skuratov has put up a yearlong fight to return to office. On Friday, Skuratov upped the ante: The Central Election Commission registered a group that will collect signatures of support for Skuratov's presidential candidacy.

To make it onto the ballot, a candidate has to collect 500,000 signatures, of which no more than 35,000 can be from any one region. Whether Skuratov will be able to do that is unclear, but he said he feels obliged to try: "I cannot stay out and watch.

"I don't want Russians to be fooled once again, as they were in 1996 when a sick, weak and incapable president was forced upon them through a dirty media campaign and rigged elections. I know exactly how the election results were skewed in Tatarstan, in Dagestan and in several other regions."

Skuratov said that prosecutors opened 25 cases into elections fraud after the 1996 vote.

"All of the results were swayed in one direction [to favor Yeltsin]," he said.

Skuratov said all of the investigations were completed, and none of them sought to punish anyone or challenge the results. But he said that was because the authorities were able to discourage the investigators.

"Many local [prosecutors] were influenced by the governors and decided to stay out of this squabble," he said.

Now Skuratov comes to work at a spacious three-story mansion with intricately patterned hardwood floors and golden floral wallpaper - once the offices of Chara Bank, now the makeshift headquarters of the Skuratov campaign. But even from his new vantage point, Skuratov says he is seeing a repeat of the election violations he saw in 1996.

"We have seen only the first steps of this campaign, but already there are grave violations," he said.

"Putin's representatives in the regions use regional administration resources to organize their campaign headquarters. And it's usually the deputy governors who become the heads of these headquarters, which is an outright violation of our election laws, because it is illegal for the state to promote certain candidates."

Skuratov said that this heavy involvement of local authorities in Putin's campaign could possibly provide a legal basis to challenge the legitimacy of the March 26 presidential elections and overturn the results.

He did not disclose who his own supporters or financial backers are. Nikolai Petrov, an analyst with the Moscow Carnegie Center, said that it does not take much money to run a low-key passive campaign, especially during the period when signatures are collected.

"But if he manages to collect the 500,000 signatures [necessary to register as a candidate], this would be a real indication that he has some serious backing," Petrov said.

Yeltsin tried to fire Skuratov three times. But each time the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, refused to approve the dismissal.

Instead, the Kremlin managed to suspend Skuratov while authorities investigated whether the prostitutes in the famous video were a bribe from organized crime, in return for which Skuratov closed some criminal cases.

In October, a Moscow court ruled that the investigation of Skuratov was illegal and should be closed, but in December, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Kremlin was within its rights to suspend and investigate Skuratov.