06MOSCOW5934, RUSSIAN PROCURATOR GENERAL DISMISSED

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW5934 2006-06-02 14:56 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO6271
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #5934/01 1531456
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 021456Z JUN 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7036
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 005934 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR INL/PRAHAR 
DOJ FOR OPDAT (LEHMANN) AND OIA (BURKE) 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/02/2016 
TAGS: PGOV KCRM PHUM PINR RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIAN PROCURATOR GENERAL DISMISSED 
 
REF: 04 MOSCOW 8743 
 
Classified By: Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs Kirk Augustine. 
 Reasons 1.4 (B/D). 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY:  President Putin removed Vladimir Ustinov as 
Procurator General on June 2.  He did not name an immediate 
replacement.  PolPreds Dmitriy Kozak and Aleksandr Konovalov 
are considered leading candidates to replace Ustinov.  The 
suddenness of the move surprised observers, although rumors 
about Ustinov's removal have long circulated.  Throughout his 
tenure, Ustinov created stumbling blocks to foreign technical 
assistance to the Procuracy, and his departure may be good 
news for the Embassy.  Ustinov had been an important member 
of the "silovik" group in the Kremlin, and speculation in the 
period ahead will center on the implications of his removal 
for the balance of power within Putin's inner circle. 
Observers will also analyze the implications of Ustinov's 
removal in terms of the succession, particularly if Kozak 
moves into Ustinov's slot.  END SUMMARY 
. 
USTINOV'S REMOVAL 
----------------- 
 
2.  (SBU) President Putin issued a presidential order on June 
2 removing Procurator General Vladimir Ustinov from his post. 
 In accordance with constitutional procedures, the Federation 
Council voted on that order, endorsing it by a unanimous vote 
of 140-0 with two abstentions, thereby legally sealing 
Ustinov's fate.  Media reports noted that the 54-year old 
Ustinov had asked to resign for "health reasons," noting at 
the same time that this is often the face-saving formulation 
for dismissed senior officials.  Ustinov became Prosecutor 
General in May 2000 and last year was re-appointed to a 
second five-year term by a vote of the Federation Council. 
During his term, he personally oversaw several of the 
country's most controversial judicial proceedings, including 
the case against former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskiy and 
oligarchs Berezovskiy and Gusinskiy. 
 
3.  (SBU) The suddenness of Ustinov's departure surprised 
observers, although rumors have long swirled that he would be 
removed (reftel).  Pundits have already begun to speculate 
that Ustinov's sudden departure could be linked to the latest 
anti-corruption campaign, which Putin launched in his May 10 
address to the nation.  A number of senior law enforcement 
and security officials have already been dismissed from their 
positions, and the Customs Service was placed under the 
direct authority of the Prime Minister.  Others suggest that 
Ustinov's removal should be seen in the context of the 
Kremlin's permanent preoccupation with consolidating its hold 
on power.  In this context, some saw Ustinov -- a holdover 
from the Yeltsin era -- as a less than trustworthy figure, 
despite his eagerness to please the Kremlin. 
 
4.  (SBU) The Federation Council will discuss a permanent 
replacement for Ustinov later this month, according to 
Council Chairman Sergey Mironov.  By most accounts, Dmitriy 
Kozak, the Southern District PolPred and, arguably, one of 
the country's leading trouble-shooters, is a front runner. 
Volga District PolPred Aleksandr Konavalov is also among the 
rumored front-runners.  In the interim, First Deputy 
Procurator General Yuriy Biryukov was elevated to the top 
legal job in an acting capacity. 
. 
GOOD NEWS FOR USG ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS? 
-------------------------------------- 
 
5. (C) From the Embassy's perspective, Ustinov's departure 
may prove to be good news.  He rarely met with USG officials, 
including those from the Embassy, and any program involving 
the Procuracy's participation with USG programs always 
required his personal approval, which sometimes proved a 
lengthy and difficult process that ended with a refusal. 
This was part of a broader pattern, throughout his tenure, of 
creating stumbling blocks to foreign technical assistance 
aimed at supporting reform in the General Procuracy.  Beyond 
that, he set a xenophobic tone within the Procuracy, which 
further complicated foreign cooperation.  The Procuracy's 
rank-and-file with which Embassy's Law Enforcement Section 
worked dropped subtle hints of their lack of respect for him, 
and from their perspective, he no doubt will not be missed. 
. 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
6.  (C) Even at this point it is safe to say that few 
rule-of-law experts or human rights advocates will mourn 
 
MOSCOW 00005934  002 OF 002 
 
 
Ustinov's departure.  His tenure as Procurator General has 
been controversial, and his public statements occasionally 
have drifted away from strict legal judgments and well into 
the realm of personal opinion, some bordering on the illegal. 
 Last year, for example, Ustinov advocated that law 
enforcement and security officials operating in the northern 
Caucasus consider taking hostage the family members of 
leading Chechen separatists as a tactic to break the back of 
the ongoing insurgency there. 
 
7. (C) Beyond the implications for the rule of law in Russia, 
speculation will center on how Ustinov's removal will affect 
the balance of power in the Kremlin and the succession 
struggle.  Ustinov is an important member of the "silovik" 
group inside the Kremlin, and some will view his removal as a 
setback for that group.  (NOTE:  Ustinov's son is reportedly 
married to the daughter of Presidential Administration deputy 
head Igor Sechin, who is generally regarded as the head of 
the "silovik" group.  END NOTE.) 
 
8.  (C) On the day of Ustinov's removal, German Gref publicly 
indicated that he may tender his resignation as Minister of 
Economic Development and Trade, raising speculation that he 
will be removed to counter-balance the setback to the 
siloviki with the departure of a key member of the Kremlin's 
liberal group.  That would be seen as part of Putin's effort 
to maintain balance among his inner circle.  All eyes will 
also focus on whether Kozak will return to Moscow and step in 
as Procurator General -- and thus become a contender to 
replace Putin as president in 2008. 
BURNS

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