Russian deputy PM hints at political pressure on innovation centre graft probe

Skolkovo File Photo

(Interfax – April 18, 2013) Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vladislav Surkov said on 18 April that “certain forces” are trying to undermine the country’s budding innovation centre, Skolkovo, which is being investigated for embezzlement, privately-owned Russian news agency Interfax reported.

Surkov, who is a member of the Skolkovo Foundation’s board of trustees, was speaking following a raid by Federal Security Service officers on the centre’s headquarters in Moscow, during which financial documents were seized.

“I trust the leadership of the Skolkovo Foundation and am sure that it is and will be fully cooperating with the investigation,” Surkov said.

“At the same time, I consider it necessary to note that there are certain forces who are trying to politicize recent developments around the innovation centre and who are also actively spreading information aimed at discrediting the project as a whole. That is unacceptable,” he said.

Earlier, Interfax quoted Russia’s Investigations Committee as saying in a press release that during the raid “a significant number of legal, financial and accounting documents were seized” as part of an embezzlement case against a group of officials, including former Skolkovo finance department chief Kirill Lugovtsev.

Interfax recalled that the criminal case was launched on 12 February over alleged theft of public funds worth about R24m (760,000 dollars). However, on 28 February Investigations Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said that his agency was “checking intelligence reports on the improper use by the Skolkovo Foundation of R3.5bn (110m dollars) allocated from the (state) budget for the development of the science city”. He added that the money had been paid into accounts in a bank affiliated with billionaire businessman Viktor Vekselberg, who is Skolkovo Foundation president.

The 18 April raid on Skolkovo’s central office in Moscow took place after “Vekselberg was familiarized with the decision to conduct a search”, the Investigations Committee said in its press release.