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  •   Yeltsin, in Brief Kremlin Visit, Accepts Top Prosecutor's Resignation

    By David Hoffman
    Washington Post Foreign Service
    Wednesday, February 3, 1999; Page A18

    MOSCOW, Feb. 2—President Boris Yeltsin, still recovering from an ulcer, unexpectedly showed up at his Kremlin office today for the first time this year and accepted the resignation of the country's much-criticized chief prosecutor.

    Meanwhile, camouflaged elite troops raided the headquarters of an oil company close to financier Boris Berezovsky, apparently looking for evidence to support recent newspaper reports that Berezovsky was spying on Yeltsin and his family. Berezovsky has long been close to the Yeltsin family and is believed to have provided financial support to them.

    The prosecutor, Yuri Skuratov, 46, who held the post for more than three years, had often vowed to tackle Russia's endemic corruption and violence, but never delivered with charges and trials in high-profile cases of contract killings and financial wrongdoing. Many critics saw him as the epitome of how law enforcement has collapsed and how the rule of law was never really established in the first years of Russia's tumultuous post-Soviet market democracy.

    Skuratov checked into the Central Clinical Hospital Monday, complaining of heart trouble, and the Kremlin said his resignation was for health reasons. Yeltsin, who was in the Kremlin for about 1 1/2 hours today, returned to a rest home at Barvikha outside Moscow for recuperation from a bleeding ulcer.

    The resignation came on the heels of a weekend promise by Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov to go after "small groups" that he said are "plundering the state." He said 90,000 prisoners are being amnestied to make room in the jails for those to be accused of "economic crimes."

    Berezovsky, the politically active tycoon who is also executive secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States, has been increasingly public in his criticism of Primakov in recent days, and demanded that Primakov retract the promise, saying it smacked of Soviet-era repressions.

    Over the past seven years Russia's criminal laws rarely have been enforced, allowing bribery to flourish as well as lucrative sweetheart deals for factories and industry for well-connected businessmen.

    An outpouring of grief followed last year's assassination of a liberal parliament member, Galina Starovoitova, but the case has not been solved. Nor were dozens of other high-profile contract murders, including that of an investigative reporter, a television executive, an American hotelier who was gunned down on a street corner, a priest and dozens of bankers. Skuratov was criticized today for failing to come to grips with the web of crime and corruption.

    The raid on Sibneft, an oil company believed to be controlled by Berezovsky, was not directed at the company, said Yevgeny Shvidler, the acting president. Rather, Russian news reports said, authorities were searching for materials described in the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, which reported that Berezovsky established a small intelligence bureau of his own and that it was used for spying on Yeltsin's family.

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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