Russian minister suspended over bath-house film scandal al

Russia's Justice Minister, Valentin Kovalyov, was yesterday temporarily removed from office while an inquiry is held into a secretly shot videotape which purports to show him with two naked women in a Mafia-frequented banya (baths).

The decision, announced by the Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, follows a request by the minister himself to be suspended in order to clear his name.

The scandal - a rival to the worst of British Tory sleaze - exploded into the public domain after the monthly tabloid newspaper Sovershenno Sekretno (Top Secret) published poor-quality and grainy snaps taken from the video, parts of which were also broadcast on Russian television. These show a silver-haired man in steam-shrouded baths with two large, apparently naked, women; the video was allegedly filmed in secret in September 1995, eight months after the 55-year-old minister was appointed to his post.

The minister has protested his innocence, and appears to believe he is the victim of a sophisticated plot. "Everyone knows very well that modern technology, including computer technologies, make it possible to put a person into any environment or situation," he said, after being recalled suddenly from a trip to Sweden.

The acquisition of kompromat - compromising material - was one of the enthusiasms of the old KGB. But by KGB standards, the evidence against Mr Kovalyov is by no means high grade. The black-and-white pictures are poor and could have been tampered with. Moreover, mixed banyas are common among Russians and the intense heat ensures that the banya has an entirely asexual ambience.

Perhaps the more damning claim against Mr Kovalyov is that the nightclub sauna in which he was allegedly frolicking was a Mafia haunt. Sovershenno Sekretno alleged that the videotape was taken from the safe in the country home of a 35-year-old banker, Arkady Angelevich, arrested this year on suspicion of stealing $7m (pounds 4.3m).

Whether the pictures are authentic or not, the affair is an embarrassment for the Yeltsin administration, which is supposed to have embarked on a campaign to clean up corruption in high and low places. In asking to be suspended from his job to fight the sleaze allegations, Mr Kovalyov said he wanted to preserve the reputation of the Russian government. But for many here, it is too late for that.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore