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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Oligarch Foe Fired From Prosecutor's Office




The Federation Council on Wednesday confirmed the dismissal of a senior prosecutor who had sanctioned the arrests of powerful oligarchs and investigated allegations of corruption among Kremlin officials, with several other senior investigators set to leave soon.


Parliament's upper house voted to approve the removal of Mikhail Katyshev from his post as deputy prosecutor general, as the country's new top prosecutor, Vladimir Ustinov, continued to appoint people loyal to him to key posts in his office.


Katyshev was the man who authorized searches in the offices of the presidential administration last year as the Prosecutor General's Office tried to find evidence of bribes and kickbacks to Kremlin officials by Swiss construction company Mabetex. While that case has not been closed officially, the investigation has led nowhere.


Katyshev also personally signed arrest warrants for powerful business tycoon Boris Berezovsky and banker Alexander Smolensky in April 1999, only to see them canceled soon thereafter.


Katyshev lost his post as head of the investigation department of the Prosecutor General's Office only hours after signing the warrants, although he had retained his position as deputy chief prosecutor until Wednesday.


In a separate vote, the Federation Council approved all seven officers nominated by Ustinov to serve as his deputies responsible for supervising the federal districts recently created by President Vladimir Putin. The Council also confirmed Yury Biryukov, who used to serve with Ustinov in the North Caucasus, as first deputy prosecutor general.


Former Prosecutor General Yury Skuratov said Wednesday he regretted Katyshev's dismissal.


"There is a trend of pushing the most honest and principled servicemen out of the prosecutor's office," Skuratov said in remarks reported by Interfax.


Skuratov himself was suspended in February 1999 over allegations of bribe-taking, which he said were used to cover up his efforts to reveal and punish corruption in the Kremlin.


Skuratov noted that several other veteran investigators have either left the Prosecutor General's Office and the chief military prosecutor's office already or will soon do so.


Among them is Yury Bagrayev of the chief military prosecutor's office, who ordered an end to the probe into Skuratov's alleged misdeeds last year, arguing that the case didn't hold water.


Bagrayev was suspended soon after this ruling and is to be fired, chief military prosecutor's office spokesman Sergei Ushakov said. Another senior military prosecutor, Felix Todorov, has already submitted his resignation to protest Bargayev's firing, according to the Segodnya newspaper.


Calls to Natalya Veshnyakova, spokeswoman for the Prosecutor General's Office, went unanswered Wednesday.


Ushakov of the chief military prosecutor's office insisted that both Bagrayev and Todorov are being fired in line with "overall personnel cuts" and not because of their close ties to Skuratov.


Independent experts argued, however, that any talk of personnel downsizing among prosecutors sounds "laughable" as Ustinov is busy setting up new offices to supervise the seven new districts set up by Putin.


"In reality, Ustinov is getting rid of his predecessor's proteges to install his own," said Yevgeny Volk of the Heritage Foundation.