Sex, a tape reel and millions of TV sets have been joined in yet another sensational sex scandal -- one that Ken Starr is not likely to investigate.
Thousands of miles from Washington, Russian President Boris Yeltsin held an urgent meeting Thursday with his prosecutor-general, Yuri Skuratov, who is at the center of a Kremlin scandal that involves sex, lies, videotape and the reputations of some of Russia's most powerful figures.
On Wednesday, the upper house of Russia's parliament voted overwhelmingly to block Skuratov's resignation after the prosecutor said he had been forced out by political opponents. Skuratov initially said he resigned for health reasons.
Yeltsin and Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov later issued a joint statement that appeared to condemn Skuratov, saying that "moral unscrupulousness and scheming are incompatible with the high post of prosecutor-general."
It wasn't clear what moral failings they had in mind. However, late Wednesday night, the government television channel showed excerpts from a secretly recorded videotape that showed a man resembling Skuratov having sex with two women identified as prostitutes.
Even a Kremlin announcement that the president would leave the hospital later on Thursday, after almost three weeks' treatment for a stomach ulcer, couldn't deflect the blow the parliament's decision dealt to Yeltsin's waning authority.
There have been rumors for weeks about the existence of such a tape. Skuratov apparently referred to it Wednesday when he told parliament someone had gathered information about his private life "in a criminal manner."
The newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets reported Thursday that someone had given members of the parliament copies of the full, 51-minute tape.
The Kremlin press service, which speaks for Yeltsin, issued a statement Thursday saying the president had asked the Russian Security Council to "check the reliability of information on actions which disgrace and discredit a prosecutor." The council said it would form a commission to investigate.
Russian news accounts suggested the videotape might have backfired, stoking support for Skuratov in parliament. And several newspapers suggested the whole affair had further damaged Yeltsin, who used to enjoy strong support from the upper parliament and now is becoming an increasingly isolated figure in Russian politics.
Skuratov submitted his resignation last month. It came one day after he revealed that Russia's Central Bank had been funneling large chunks of its reserves through an obscure -- and previously secret -- offshore company.
Skuratov visited Yeltsin at the hospital before he was discharged Thursday, and the president told a special commission to investigate his case.
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