- Nikolay Ivanovich, you are an ex-officer of the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Problems in the power structures are often spoken about now. What do you think the main problem of the Prosecutor’s Office is?
PRAVDA.Ru interviewed Duma deputy Nikolay Shaklein We have many problems, I mean not only the Prosecutor’s Office, but the state itself. This certainly has an effect on today’s standard of living and degree of democracy. We have been working on the creation of a legal state for a long period already but have not yet succeeded. The majority of reproaches of the authorities are quite reasonable. However, it is wrong to say that the Prosecutor’s Office fails to perform its tasks. The extent of the office’s work is not to be determined by the work in Moscow and the notorious cases reported in the media. The regions are the central sphere for the work of the Prosecutor’s Office. It is the key factor to maintain law and order. I would refrain from making any negative estimates of the work of the Prosecutor’s Office. The Kursk region can be taken as an example. Alexander Rutskoy was the governor at that time. He was a high-ranking figure; nevertheless, the regional public prosecutor managed to resist Rutskoy’s interference and bring several cases to court, including those against relatives and aides of Rutskoy himself. There are lots of examples of this kind. To speak about the work of the General Public Prosecutor and the Prosecutor’s Office in the center, the Office’s leadership cannot be called completely independent. The president’s influence is great. Although I am not with the Prosecutor’s Office any more, looking back at the system and analyzing the relations in the Office of the Public Prosecutor, I should admit that the attention of the department is focused on cases where the Kremlin’s influence is great. The same can be said about the State Duma’s independence. Every deputy depends upon the will of the voters. The Duma, on the whole, depends on the president as well as on the Prosecutor’s Office. The process of the consideration of a project in the Duma reveals this fact: if there is an instruction, some legislations are passed even despite conclusions of experts and recommendations of the legal department. Today’s Federation Council has become more dependent as well. The selection procedure, the staff, and the decisions passed by the Federation Council demonstrate it rather well. I think, it is not the interests of the regions represented in the Federation Council, but the will of the leader of the state and his team is top-priority in the Federation Council.
We should also say that we have not given up the authoritarian regime completely. The RF Constitution is not well balanced regarding the division of authority: the whole of the power is concentrated in the hands of one man only, and all power and management structures are dependant on him. There is also no counterbalance to accuse the Prosecutor’s Office of insufficient independence and strict observance of orders. We have the Prosecutor’s Office in the very form they have built it themselves. If the problem depended on some particular people, the situation could be improved.
Ex-public prosecutor Yury Skuratov demonstrated independence. Yeugeny Primakov was at the head of the government at that time, and he was actively supporting the General Office of the Public Prosecutor. The result of the independence manifestations in some cases showed that we had no mechanism for functionary protection, even such high-ranking as Public Prosecutor.
To avoid reproaches, we should create conditions necessary for independence and a mechanism for realization of the norms.
We mention independence of the judicial authority; however, it can not function regularly without the executive authority. We remember the time when Russia’s courts didn't have the finances even to send notices of appointment; the courts’ work was suspended then. Today, 34% of Russian courts are situated in unaccommodated buildings, and the same can be said about the Prosecutor’s Office.
I had been at the post of regional prosecutor and in Russia’s General Office of Public Prosecutor. I know well that their is less dependence is less if a prosecutor behaves well. The work of the Prosecutor’s Office should not be estimated on results of so-called “notorious cases."
- Did you observe a clannish tendency in the cases examined after 1992 (for example, the case of Dmitry Yakubovsky)? Did he belong to your circle or not?
- We can almost always observe attempts to protect people of some particular circle. However, id doesn't influence the final results in all cases. Much depends upon the person who is in charge of the case. There are attempts to influence practically every case, including attempts by relatives of the suffered and the accused. Professionalism and personal qualities of the people in charge of the case determine the result of such attempts. I do not mean that some subjectivism was allowed in the cases you’ve mentioned. However, I think that the people in charge of the cases were influenced to some degree during the investigation. The main problem of the society now is the non-observance of the laws in force
- Let us speak about the case of Pavel Borodin. Protests arose in the West as soon as he was arrested. Even Communist Vasily Shandybin, who is well-known for the dislike towards the authorities, demanded Borodin’s release. What does it all mean?
- I know deputy Shandybin, and may suppose it was merely false patriotism. As if he wondered why Borodin was detained in the West and not in Russia. He probably wanted the case to be investigated here in Russia.
I can not share such a position, as law enforcement authorities are not to be influenced from outside. This is another manifestation of the legal nihilism that is so typical of Russians.
- What is your attitude to Borodin’s detention at JFK airport in New York? Were the actions of the Prosecutor’s Office right?
- I think no legal norms were violated during the detention in New York. This was a mere execution of a court decision. The only thing we can speak about in this case is whether the judge had enough evidence of Borodin’s crimes. The Russian Prosecutor’s Office did not receive the whole volume of the documents on the case. The investigation is not over yet; the results will be published after the investigation and consideration of the court, in case it is to be submitted there.
- The deputies have sent a letter of inquiry regarding Alexander Voloshin’s activity, but no response has been received. Can this also be pressure? Boris Berezovsky, who lives abroad now, may also serve another example here. He said that he had founded the Medved (Bear) political movement and so on. Perhaps the oligarchs are easily allowed to cross the border, because some people want no evidence of the oligarchs at the General Office of Public Prosecutor.
- The things you’ve said are reasonable. I am also surprised, because no refutations appear for the cases reported in the media. We can see such cases in the work of the Duma commission for corruption control; I am also a member of the commission. In December of 2001, the commission considered the role of the General Office of Public Prosecutor in the struggle with corruption. The four cases earlier sent by the commission to the Prosecutor’s Office were the basis for the consideration. Those were the cases concerning Railway Minister Aksenenko, Transport Minister Frank, Ex-Minister for Atomic Energy Adamov, and First Deputy Finance Minister Vavilov. The commission thinks that the documents have not been objectively and adequately considered by the General Office of Public Prosecutor. The commission got no explanations why the investigation of these cases was suspended. This also demonstrates the insufficient degree of the anti-corruption struggle. The same conclusion can be drawn from the Duma’s discussion of two laws. The law on the struggle against corruption has not come into effect yet, as it met the objections of some governmental and presidential structures. Another law, “On resistance to money laundering," was passed in the form that is of slightest influence upon today’s situation.
- Who rejects laws in the Duma?
- You may always see from the print who voted for each of the documents. The deputies usually split into two groups on different vexed questions. There are some factions and deputy groups that are consolidated to support opinions of the president and the government. Some deputies vote in a different way. Some are in the habit of fulfilling commands and obey to other people’s will.
- Do you agree that some oligarchs have retained their influence in Russia even in exile?
- Absolutely. You know, Boris Berezovsky founded a party of his own in Russia. Berezovsky was in the ex-president’s milieu, whose influence is still great even now. Berezovsky was a part of the ex-president’s “family." We cannot say that the changes in the government turned out to be radical. Some people from the ex-president’s team are still in the Kremlin. Berezovsky’s great influence is explained by the financial resources he illegally obtained in Russia.
- Do you really think that people with considerable sums of money leave for abroad and nobody knows about it? I mean, General Orlov, for example.
- I am perfectly sure that none of the departures with large finance would be possible without influential assistance. The departure problem, moreover, further detention and extradition, could be solved now but no measures are being taken.
- Why don't Duma deputies take up the problem?
- These problems have been touched upon, and they are often discussed, including problems connected with Boris Berezovsky. Special attention has been paid to Chechnya. Nowadays, almost every citizen of Chechnya knows the locations of the militants, but the special services are unaware of this fact. The Grozny mayor has mentioned this fact several times already. How can it be? We have sent letters of inquiry, but they brought no results. Chechnya is a center for many different interests and contradictions. The same can be said about Yury Skuratov’s case. The president received some appeals concerning the violation of laws during the institution of the criminal proceedings against Russia’s Public Prosecutor. Do you think there are to be more comments on it?
In October of 1993, the Supreme Council was shot in the House of the government. I held the post of deputy public prosecutor at that time. We treated the president’s actions negatively. The people made no protests against those actions, which allowed the president to ignore the legislative authority and use force. Reshuffling in the General Office of Public Prosecutor then followed.
Those facts demonstrated the immaturity of the society and lack of non-perception of gravest law violations, even those committed by the president.
Presidents from other countries can not act like this. I was a member of the Duma impeachment commission. We revealed five corpus delicti in Yeltsin’s actions, but we failed to get enough votes during the voting in the Duma. Unbelievably, we expect respect towards the authorities and the president under such conditions.
- You mean that the people keep silent.
- Yes, this is true. Before the attack on the White House in 1993, the situation in the regions had been examined, and any possible reactions of the population, local authorities and political parties to the actions were studied. After the study, it became clear that no protests would come; that is why the actions took place. The estimate proved to be true. If the people reacted differently, many processes, including privatization and capital outflow, would never take place.
- How much money can be pumped out of Russia, and how much has already been pumped out?
- Different figures were mentioned, sums up to $500 billion. I can not speak about any reliable sources. I only can admit that the sums are great.
- If things like this happen, can we trust the president?
- My attitude to President Yeltsin was 100% negative; I stood for his resignation. As for President Putin, we supported him right after the election. The program he declared was rather agreeable. However, as time passes, the degree of trust diminishes, as just few positive changes in the economy have happened. I think that, later, the process will concern the population as well. Even today, the trust of the president is still very high: 75-80%. I believe, some positive things are to happen soon.
- You’ve mentioned that the parliament is powerless.
- Legally, the parliament has no sufficient rights to balance the authority. The Constitution is to be amended. In addition, today’s Duma depends upon the executive authority and the president, and it cannot use the whole of its independence and the authorities.
Nikolay Shaklein was interviewed by Ilya Tarasov PRAVDA.Ru
In the photo: Deputy Nikolay Shaklein
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/02/21/37405.html