By Graham Stack
Special to Russia Profile,08/26/2009
The much-anticipated shift toward more liberalism in Russia marked by Dmitry Medvedev’s election as president in March of 2008 but delayed by last year’s war with Georgia and this year’s economic crisis looks to be slowly getting started. Under the Kremlin’s patronage, an alliance appears to be forming against the state corporation juggernaut. Could the time have come for Russian private enterprise and innovation to take the lead?
The trial for the killing of Anna Politkovskaya, which took place in October 2006, has opened with the suspected killer still at large, the press excluded from the proceedings, and an apparent attempted poisoning of the prosecution’s lawyer. But even if the three existing defendants are found guilty, the actual masterminds of the murder have little to worry about.
Yuri Yakovlevich Chaika (Юрий Яковлевич Чайка) was born in 1951 in Nikolayevsk-on-Amur, Khabarovsk territory. A former Russian justice minister, he has been Russian Prosecutor General since June 2006.
From 1968 to 1970 Chaika studied at the shipbuilding faculty of Komsomolsk-on-Amur Technical Institute. He quit and started working as an electrician at a shipbuilding factory in his home town in 1970, before completing his military service in Khaborovsk in 1972. He then studied at Sverdlovsk Law Institute until 1976. Upon graduation he joined the Irkutsk region prosecution authorities, working initially as a probationer, and working his way up to become a transport public prosecutor. In 1983 he headed the Investigative Division of the East Siberian Transport Public Prosecutor’s Office.
From 1984 to 1992, Chaika worked in the administration of the Irkutsk Regional Communist Party Committee. In 1992 he became public prosecutor of the Irkutsk Region.
In 1995, Chaika was appointed first deputy prosecutor general of Russia. His superior was Yuri Skuratov, the prosecutor general who blew the whistle on Financial Management Company (FIMACO) in 1999, and Chaika’s acquaintance from the Sverdlovsk Law Institute. When Skuratov was dismissed, Chaika defended the decision and was acting prosecutor general from April to August 1999. He resigned shortly before being called to give evidence in an investigation into a racketeering gang, which allegedly had links to Chaika’s son. The federation council stalled on accepting his resignation, meanwhile he went on leave, designating temporary powers to deputy Vladimir Ustinov, before announcing his retirement.
From August 1999 to 2006 he was the Russian justice minister. In November 1999 he was also appointed coordinator of the presidential commission to combat political extremism. In 2001 he spoke out in defense of the death penalty for terrorists during a meeting with the general secretaryof the Council of Europe.
On June 23, 2006, by Federation Council resolution, Chaika was appointed prosecutor general of the Russian Federation, replacing Vladimir Ustinov. In 2008 he proposed the creation of a central investigative committee which would unite the work of prosecutors, the Interior Ministry, the FSB and the state drugs prosecution service. His deputy, Alexander Bastrykhin opposed this proposal. He is considered to be one of the St Petersburg lawyers, which support Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
Chaika's power was dealt a blow in 2007, when his deputy, Bastrykhin, was appointed chairman of the new Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor General’s Office. The committee, which is largely independent from the Prosecutor General’s Office, was allegedly set up at the instigation of Igor Sechin, whose influence in the Prosecutor General’s office was reduced when his ally Vladimir Ustinov was dismissed as prosecutor general in 2006.
Chaika is married and has two children.