Vice President, Chief Prosecutor Deny Allegations; Transcript Released
MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia’s attorney general on Thursday denied allegations that he plotted the murder of a corruption investigator and said he would not resign.
In a nationally televised news conference Wednesday, a commission investigating high-level corruption leveled the allegations against Prosecutor General Valentin Stepankov and said he should step down.
It said it has a recording of Stepankov planning the murder of a commission member who was too ″curious″ about Vice President Alexander Rutskoi’s activities.
The commission also accused Rutskoi of having a suspicious Swiss bank account padded with ″large sums of state money from certain companies″ in Russia.
Rutskoi denied the accusation on Thursday and said he would go to court to defend his ″honor and dignity.″ Under Russian law, he could be impeached if the 13-member Constitutional Court finds he has broken the law and the Congress of People’s Deputies then votes to remove him from office.
Both Rutskoi and Stepankov have aligned themselves with hard-line opponents of President Boris Yeltsin. The commission insists its investigation was not politically motivated.
The panel said it has a recording of Stepankov talking on the telephone with a Russian businessman in Canada about getting rid of Andrei Makarov, a prominent defense attorney.
The businessman, Dmitry Yakubovsky, told a news conference in Toronto Wednesday that Stepankov asked him to arrange Makarov’s assassination. He said he refused and warned Makarov.
Makarov said Yakubovsky taped the conversation, then turned over the tape. The ITAR-Tass news agency published a transcript Thursday from a copy of the tape provided by Makarov.
At one point, Yakubovsky suggests, referring to Makarov: ″Maybe it is necessary, so to say, to remove this irritant?″ Yakubovsky later adds that the plump attorney ″is a very sick and weak person.″
Stepankov: ″Well, maybe he should get treated.″
Yakubovsky: ″Well, maybe, it is necessary to help this person get treatment?″
Stepankov: ″Well, I don’t know ... If you believe so and you have opportunities there, well, you think it over.″
Russian newspapers have reported that Yakubovsky, a lawyer who once worked with Stepankov in the Moscow city prosecutor’s office, has been involved in secret business deals, possibly including arms sales.
According to Yakubovsky, Stepankov wanted Makarov killed because the lawyer had found documents in Zurich suggesting the vice president was involved in corruption.
Stepankov said the conversation was misinterpreted. Several newspapers on Thursday accused the panel of playing politics.
″It’s hard to tell how much truth is contained in the accusations and how much political cunning,″ said the pro-Yeltsin Komsomolskaya Pravda.
Rossiskaya Gazeta, which reflects the views of Yeltsin’s opponents in parliament, called the allegations ″brazen, shameless and insubstantial.″
Stepankov, who also is a member of parliament and holds legislative immunity from prosecution, scoffed at the demand to step down.
″I have not done everything I set out to do, I am not afraid and I will not resign of my own free will,″ Stepankov told the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets in a statement confirmed by his spokesman.
The commission said it was turning over its findings to Moscow’s city prosecutor, who is independent of Stepankov, for further investigation.