Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov returned from a Mediterranean vacation and announced Monday that his consultancy firm faced a tax audit that could be a new attempt to discredit him.
Kasyanov also vowed to remain engaged in politics, saying he would be involved in "some way or another" in the Moscow City Duma elections in December, the State Duma elections in 2007 and the presidential vote in 2008.
Kasyanov told reporters that tax inspectors had obtained permission to audit his firm, MK_Analytica, and notified the firm that an inspection was pending. Kasyanov set up MK_Analytica earlier this year and said it would aim to attract investment to Russia.
"I can already see that this is being done with one simple goal: to obtain information about clients whom we already have agreements with and to pressure our partners with regard to our business," Kasyanov said, Interfax reported.
Tax officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
Kasyanov said the audit could lead to "a wave of some kind of dirty new fabrications" against him following an investigation into his acquisition of a former state-owned villa.
In July, the Prosecutor General's Office opened a criminal probe into whether Kasyanov committed fraud and abuse of office in the acquisition of the luxury villa in western Moscow. The investigation is widely seen as a Kremlin warning to Kasyanov, a possible liberal presidential candidate in 2008, to stay away from politics.
Kasyanov, who has denied wrongdoing, said Monday that he had no intention of disassociating himself from politics. Asked by a reporter how he would be involved in upcoming elections, Kasyanov said, "That is a question for the future," Interfax reported.
Yabloko deputy head Sergei Ivanenko said Monday that his party has been in consultations with Kasyanov about a possible role in upcoming elections, Interfax reported. He did not say what the role might be.
Kasyanov's return from the Mediterranean over the weekend dispelled speculation that he might not come back due to the villa probe. While Kasyanov was gone, the Foreign Policy Center, a British think tank, released a report titled "Blueprint for Russia" that contained a preface written by Kasyanov that harshly criticized the Kremlin.
After the report's publication last week, Kremlin consultant Gleb Pavlovsky told Interfax he would be surprised if Kasyanov returned. He hinted that if Kasyanov did, it would indicate he had foreign backing to "fan tensions in Russia long before the elections."
Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think tank, said the pending tax audit was not surprising and certainly politically motivated.
"They'll almost certainly find something incriminating," Pribylovsky said. "But the powers that be don't seem to understand that Kasyanov is not an electable figure. They're scared he'll become another Yushchenko."
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko rose to power late last year by leading a popular uprising against Leonid Kuchma's government.
Pribylovsky, however, said Kasyanov would never be able to shake his public image as a corrupt official. "People who don't even remember that he was prime minister will always remember him as 'Misha 2 Percent,'" Pribylovsky said, referring to a nickname given to Kasyanov in the 1990s amid speculation that he parlayed insider information on the debt market into his own financial gain.
(The Moscow Times 30.viii.05)