Yury Skuratov: Putin is not willing to have a meeting with me

PRAVDA.Ru had an interview with Russia’s former Prosecutor General, Yury Skuratov.

The parliamentary assembly of the republic of Buryatia cancelled its own decree about appointing Yury Skuratov for a position of a representative of the republic in the Federation Council. The law-makers – their majority to be more precise - agreed with the protest of Buryatia's prosecutor, who considered, that there was a procedural violation, when Skuratov was elected. The parliamentary assembly elected former prosecutor general representative of the republic in the Federation Council on November 19. However, the law-makers tried to cancel their own resolution on the score, but there were not enough votes to do it. The second attempt turned out to be more efficient for those, who were against electing Skuratov to the Federation Council. So what is going on? Is Yury Skuratov an obstacle to anyone? And who are those people, if it is true?

Question: Mr.Skuratov, your appointment in the Federation Council - it was a deliberate choice. You know about the Russian legislation very well, like no one else, you have a political weight to stand for the interests of the republic in the upper house of the parliament. The power has changed in Russia - the power, which was doing its best to make you go. Aren’t you still dangerous for the Kremlin? Or maybe the deputies of the Buryatian assembly did not like you anymore?

Answer: The legislative assembly of the republic of Buryatia passed a decision to make me a member of the Federation Council. When the Kremlin found out about that (they actually knew about it long before, hoping the decision would not be passed), the officials got furious there. They started working actively and made the deputies change their decision. I went to court, but the court decision had not taken place yet.

Question: So what is the reason of such a wild reaction of the Kremlin? Are they still afraid of you?

Answer: I think so, there is no other explanation to that. Was it really necessary to spend much money on summoning a special session? Was it really necessary to spend even more money in order to send a group of the officials from the administration of the Russian president, to pay for their housing and the trip? Those efforts could have been used in a much better way. Huge money had to be spent to consider this decision again. The deputies and the president of Buryatia had their arms twisted. Why was it done that way and what are they afraid of? I think there are far fetched fears and true fears. In this case, there are more of far fetched facts. I was going to work at the Federation Council, I had that normal desire to work, to represent the interests of the republic, since I have a good experience of the legislative and law-enforcement activity. This is my experience I got on the position of the prosecutor general, which allowed me to struggle with criminality in the law-making field. A lot of anti-criminal acts had to be passed, and I was hoping I could use my experience. I had skills as a specialist in the field of the state constitutional law. I could realize my skills and my experience, I was not planning to conduct any kind of activity, which would deal with the public denunciation. They were afraid, lest I should use the tribune of the Federation Council for something like that. Secondly, it seems they do not need the competent people in the Federation Council. They needed an obedient person, they could manipulate with, who would make the decisions, good for the presidential administration. This could be understood from the point of view of the presidential administration, but can not be perceived from the point of view of the matter, because the quality of the bills and the reasoning of the state decisions suffers at that. We have already witnessed the consequences of the decisions, which were considered insufficiently. The decision pertaining to the change of the order to form the Federation Council is an example to it. Sergey Mironov, the new speaker of the Federation Council, a representative for the Legislative Assembly of St.Petersburg, submitted a bill about the change of the order to form the Federation Council – to have the electoral ground of it. So now everyone acknowledges, even the people from Putin’s team, there was a mistake made to change the order for setting up the Federation Council. This is an illegal measure since the Federation Council is a part of the parliament, a part of the Federal assembly, and the representatives of the executive power are not elected by anyone. They are not parliamentarians, but at the same time, they make up a half of the Federation Council. There was another decision, made in a hasty way – pertaining to the federal districts. I admit, there have to be measures to strengthen the vertical of power, not only the executive power, but also the judicial and legislative. That is why, when they talk about the strengthening of the executive power only, I can not agree with such an approach. The power has to be strengthened, the stability of the Russian federal laws has to be developed. The idea with the federal districts should have been given much more attention to, it was requisite to illustrate it with the laws, to think over the amendments to the Constitution, to create a respectable legal document. No one discussed, why there were seven federal districts set up, not eight, for example. No one cared to discuss, why the republic of Bashkiria, for instance, was included not in the structure of the Ural federal district, but in the Volga region. No one thought about the issue of conceptual ground of these districts: either they were a temporal formation, or the federation units. But this is a very relevant issue. It goes about the nomination of only the devoted people to the Federation Council, not the qualified people – this policy will bring negative results anyway: the administration quality will be lost, other state unreasoned decisions will be made. That is why I do not think this entire arrangement is legitimate. The way, the Buryatian deputies had their arms twisted, testifies to a political order.

Question: Why did it happened that way, when there was no ground and no reasoning?

Answer: There are many reasons here. The St.Petersburg team, which has recently come to power, does not have enough of governing experience of the state scale. There are a lot of bright people there, but it takes time for them to realize, what the Russian state is and how to govern it. This is the first reason. The second reason is about the subjective estimations only, based on the subjective perception, not on the objective analyses of the real social, economic, political situation. The Kremlin had an opportunity to exert influence on the regions of the country with the help of the Federation Council. Now the members of the Federation Council do not have that much of authority or influence. I realize it is not easy to govern such a country as Russia, there are a lot of problems coming up , but there is an opportunity to avoid mistakes and hasty decisions.

Question: So who is taking this joint program?

Answer: I can not given you an exact answer to that. Stroyev (former chairman of the Federation Council) took a dubious position - he partially supported it. It is the presidential administration, which says its final word on a lot of issues, so I think this is the answer. I would not say it is a joint program. There is no state construction program in Russia, we have some judicial reform program. This program is being promoted now, but it has not been thought out till the very end strategically, some things are meant for a short-term period in it. At the same time we do not have any program, connected with the state or legal reforms, including the concept for the reform of the Constitution, the concept for the development of federalism in Russia, the amendment of the system of local self-government. This is the program we need. The judicial reform program is ought to become a part of the state construction program. We do not have it, unfortunately, moreover, the senior officials do not realize the need in such things. When I was the Prosecutor General, we prepared a very important conceptual document: the grounds of the state policy for struggle with criminality. The document was elaborated by the scientists, it was coordinated with all ministries, determined the strategy of the state policy in the field. But this document has never been approved by the president.

Question: Are there people in Buryatia that use the protection of those, who made all your documents go to the bin? In which way was that activity against you organized?

Answer: Buryatia is a big republic, and of course I know, there has been a big job done there. Vladimir Voloshin, the head of the presidential administration – initiated a session at the department. It was Voloshin, who made a decision to send two groups to Ulan-Ude (the capital of Buryatia) to work with the deputies. Those groups made the President of the republic, Leonid Potapov to refuse from the promise about support that he gave me. I have the information that it was Putin himself, who approved all that work. The work was really impressive, the deputies were simply broken. Nothing happened during those ten days, when I was a member of the Federation Council. I was supported in the beginning, although there was a local candidacy as an alternative. They voted for me, but then there was a totally different decision made. There is only one explanation to that: the pressure on the part of the federal center. I do not think I am dangerous for the new St.Petersburg team. Many of the new state elite come from the special services, I share a lot of their political views, the views on the struggle with corruption. The Yeltsin’s Family and those, who represent it in the administration, are my adversaries, Mr. Voloshin first and foremost, and Tatiana Dyachenko.

Question: If I am getting you right, both the president and the incumbent Prosecutor General in the person of Vladimir Ustinov, are not yet independent?

Answer: I am sure that Putin is an independent person. He is not like Yeltsin, who used to be “a wedding general,” whereas the real power was in Voloshin, Dyachenko, Yumashev’s hands. Vladimir Ustinov got the idea after he saw, what happened to me. Let us remember, how much time we spent on Bislan Gantamirov’s case, when he was Grozny’s mayor (the capital of Chechnya). We proved his guilt, finished with his file, the court sentenced him to seven years in jail. This person was amnestied soon after, pursuant to the presidential decree, he took a top official position in Chechnya. This totally contradicts to the common sense.

Question: Can the special services exert influence on you?

Answer: It is hard for me to judge, any president is supposed to pay attention to the materials of the special services. This is what they are for. Another thing is to what extent these materials are true, objective, how they reflect the real state of things and so on. I am certain that Voloshin can not be objective towards me, since I cut him to the quick, when he was blushing and turning pale at the Federation Council. This is not right, when an official of his level makes the decisions on the ground of the personal offence.

Question: So it is the issue of personal devotion, to gain entry to the team?

Answer: It is hard to judge; the personal devotion is a relevant factor. There can be certain faults there. The most considerable of them is the predominance of the people from St.Petersburg, which is surely a mistake that can come back to the president later. There are a lot of talented people working there, but when you take only them, this is not right. Even Yeltsin did not allow that to happen. The second moment is the situation with those people, who come from the special services. There is nothing bad in the fact, there are people, representing the special services in the state administration, many of the American presidents used to be employed at the special services, it is considered to be a good practice. But, really…This is a wrong approach.

Question: Are the criminal circles afraid of you? I am not an incumbent prosecutor general. There was a period, when they were afraid of me and organized that commotion with the dismissal. But I am a bearer of the information about a lot of the criminal cases, which have not been closed.

Question: In other words, you know the information, which could bring harm to anyone?

Answer: I do not think this is a major reason. The main issue is fear of having a person in the Federation Council - a person with independent views and opinions.

Question: If President Putin offered you to meet, would you agree? Would you meet Putin to explain him that you are not dangerous?

Answer: What difference does it make – dangerous or not dangerous. Of course I would notify the president about some things, I am sure he had a single-handed information about many issues. But I do not think he has a huge desire to meet. We are still dependant on the oil prices. Economists said, the economy has to be developed further, one should not hope for the favorable conjuncture, it is not going to last forever. There is something being done in terms of corruption, but there have to be tougher steps made. Nothing is being done about the illegal export of money. The key issues are being solved very slowly.

Question: Are you going to yield?

Answer: I am going to take a political break. I want to do some writing, to write books. I do not see any perspective for my efforts. That is the way life is. I do not want other people to perceive me as a power-spoiled-person. I thought I could be good in the Federation Council. It did’nt work out, so I am going to deal with other things.

Yury Skuratov was interviewed by Ilya Tarasov PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2001/12/15/34847.html