Voices from Russia

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Boris Berezovsky: A Long Way to Fall

00 Boris Berezovsky 6. Russia. 24.03.13

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Exiled Russian oligarch on the run Boris Berezovsky is done running, and with his death, it seems to be the end of an era. He met his end in the bath of his suburban London home, and even though the authorities haven’t announced or even determined the official cause of death, already, the world is beginning to look for answers and to concoct theories. What one can say is that this guy lived big, climbed high, and, then, fell violently from the very heights he’d climbed. Towards the end, he showed signs of humility, but sometimes a little too little can be a little too late.

The mystery surrounding the death of Boris Berezovsky continues to grow as more and more facts continue to come in, with people all over the world trying to make sense of his death, which now seems to many to be as much of a mystery as the man’s life. Whilst experts and pundits try to clarify and define whom Berezovsky was, and give their opinion of a man that the world believed was the very incarnation of what it meant to be a Russian oligarch, many of the facts surrounding his life seem blown out of proportion or forgotten entirely. Regarding his death, it’s useless to put forth or contemplate endless conspiracy theories; the authorities haven’t yet announced the official cause of death, although it’s most likely that he committed suicide, or died of a heart attack. These are the first things that come to mind, and, in cases like this, sometimes, first impressions are often trustworthy guides. However, there are questions that we need answered.

For example, there are reports that he may have died on Friday, yet, his guards discovered him on Saturday morning, but they didn’t call an ambulance until sometime Saturday afternoon. Why the delay? There are also reports that radiological, chemical, biological, and nuclear emergency experts have closed off the entire scene, something I wouldn’t read too much into, as the UK authorities are more likely than not just being thorough. On the other hand, is that just it?

Berezovsky was a man who had made many enemies during his life, but he was surrounded by bodyguards all the time, and since his humiliating loss in a lawsuit against Roman Abramovich for 3 billion UK Pounds (141.3 billion Roubles. 4.6 billion USD. 3.6 billion Euros), an expensive venture designed to refill his deep coffers, he’d kept a pretty low profile. Such a loss and the humiliation of having the judge label him an unreliable witness in front of the whole world might have pushed Berezovsky over the edge. For those who want to weigh up suicide as a motive, there are many reasons to believe that this might have been true other than just the lost lawsuit.

Berezovsky’s last wife recently left him, which might be enough to drive any man over the edge. He was also a man used to living in unbelievably, and in his case unsustainable, extravagance, and there are widespread rumours that he was completely broke and selling off property to try to make ends meet. There’s also the mystery apology he made to President Putin, in which he asked for permission to return to Moscow, and in it, he said that he was sorry for the mistakes he’d made. Apparently, Putin rebuffed him; after all, he was a man who’d attempted to overthrow the Russian government and President, and he’d attempted to influence the last Russian election, in order to try to open a door for him to return to Russia, to regain his lost power, to recover his past glory and influence. In all this, he failed; people thought him irrelevant and told him not to stick his nose where it didn’t belong, surely a humiliation.

There was also the inquest into the death of Aleksandr Litvinenko, who some say was ordered assassinated by Berezovsky himself, or at least with his knowledge. Moreover, indubitably, this wasn’t Berezovsky’s only dirty deal. The fact was that he was a fugitive from justice in Russia. Yes, he attempted to let on that the Russian government was persecuting him due to his “political beliefs”, but that was only a disingenuous argument; he was a criminal who stole billions of dollars, taking advantage of the instability and disorder that befell Russia after the collapse of the USSR, making billions upon billions of dollars doing so. The fact that he backed the Chechen terrorists, and, along with Litvinenko, attempted to overthrow the Russian government both from within and without, are reasons that might have driven him to suicide, if these facts were becoming increasingly well-known.

Despite all of the possibilities, the most likely explanation is the simplest and most banal one. He was broke, and for a man used to such an extravagant lifestyle, that was enough to drive him to suicide or simply cause him to suffer a heart attack. VOR spoke to Fyodor Lukyanov, and in an interview, he stated that Berezovsky was one of the most talented and most conspicuous figures, who was able to obtain almost anything whilst manipulating the situation that existed after the USSR imploded. Mr Lukyanov stated that at the end of the 90s, Berezovsky was one of the five most influential people in Russia, but that when that phase ended, he found himself let out of the game.

In an another interview shortly after the death of Berezovsky, Michael John Smith, the last person convicted for spying for the USSR, and a man who’s become an expert on intelligence since his wrongful conviction said that Berezovsky wasn’t much loved in the UK. Mr Smith characterised him as a rude and loud inconvenience, an embarrassment to the British government, and someone who was, in reality, damaging Russian/UK relations. Mr Smith also broke the news that Berezovsky may have died on Friday night and that his bodyguard found him in his bath at about 11.00 UTC (04.00 PDT. 07.00 EDT. 15.00 MSK. 22.00 AEST). Mr Smith also said that Berezovsky’s staff didn’t call the ambulance until 15.30 UTC (08.30 PDT. 12.30 EDT. 19.30 MSK. 02.30 24 March AEST), a fact from which one could draw many conclusions.

In a previous interview, Mr Smith spoke about the likely connections between Berezovsky and the death of Litvinenko, giving his views on Berezovsky’s apology to President Putin, commenting on his plea to be allowed to return home, no doubt, without having to face the courts for his crimes. Mr Smith said that he was a broken man, facing legal problems in the UK, who realised that he had nowhere left to run, and he’d sooner face what he had to face in Russia rather than what was coming up in the near future in the UK. Broken man or not, one can’t be too sympathetic towards a man who did everything and anything to grab power and enrich himself, including, but not limited, to attempting to overthrow governments.

24 March 2013

Voice of Russia World Service

http://english.ruvr.ru/2013_03_24/Boris-Berezovsky-A-long-way-to-fall/

“I’ve lost the point… there’s no point [or meaning] in my life”: Berezovsky

00 Boris Berezovsky 5. Russia. 24.03.13

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Boris Berezovsky, the exiled Russian oligarch, said less than 48 hours before he was found dead at his home in Berkshire that he no longer saw any point in life. llya Zhegulev, a commentator with the Russian edition of Forbes, met the 67-year-old oligarch in the restaurant of the Four Seasons Hotel on Park Lane on Friday evening. Mr Berezovsky said that he’d lived through “many disappointments” in London. He said, “I’ve lost the point… there’s no point [or meaning] in my life. I don’t want to be involved in politics. I don’t know what to do. I’m 67 years old. And I don’t know what I should do from now on”. He said that he wanted to return to Moscow, saying, “I want nothing more than to return to Russia. Even when they opened a criminal case against me, I wanted to return to Russia… that was my main miscalculation… Russia is dear to me, I can’t be an émigré”. Friends of Mr Berezovsky raised the possibility of suicide and said he had been “destroyed” by losing a 3 billion UK Pounds (141.3 billion Roubles. 4.6 billion USD. 3.6 billion Euros) legal action with his former business partner, Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea FC. Berezovsky has lived in exile in Britain since 2000. The UK gave him asylum in 2003, which created tensions between Whitehall and the Kremlin. Once a billionaire, friends said that he’s suffered financial and personal problems.

24 March 2013

Voice of Russia World Service

http://english.ruvr.ru/2013_03_24/I-ve-lost-the-point-there-is-no-point-or-meaning-in-my-life-Berezovsky/

“There Could be a Whole Host of People who Would Want to See Him [Berezovsky] Dead”: Lord Truscott

00 Boris Berezovsky 4. Russia. 24.03.13

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The death of Boris Berezovsky made front-page news in the British media. Since the rumours of his death began to circle on the internet early yesterday afternoon, the British media whipped into a frenzy over the unexplained death of the exiled Russian oligarch. Today, a police cordon surrounds his mansion on the Wentworth Estate, and detectives and experts in chemical and nuclear materials continue to search his house as a precaution. The British press already speculates as to the circumstances of Berezovsky’s death, as well as looking back at the impact he had on both Britain and Russia during his life. In the downmarket centre-left red-top tabloid Sunday Mirror, Lord Truscott, who wrote a biography of Vladimir Putin, said, “Was it suicide or was it murder? There could be a whole host of people who would want to see him dead”.

On Sunday, the middle-market centre-right black-top tabloid The Mail on Sunday led with the headline, “Another Kremlin Enemy Dies”, and examined the dramatic events of the months leading up to the former Kremlin power-broker’s death, a so-called oligarch, who was once one of the richest men in the world. Once worth as much as 3 billion UK Pounds (141.3 billion Roubles. 4.6 billion USD. 3.6 billion Euros), Berezovsky’s wealth diminished of late, following a series of expensive court cases which cost him a great deal of his fortune. Late last year, he lost a civil case against Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, which cost Berezovsky a reported 130 million UK Pounds (6.2 billion Roubles. 198.2 million USD. 152.6 million Euros) in fees. The Mail reported that family and friends were concerned about the tycoon’s mental health in recent months; that he suffered from depression and even contemplated suicide. Lord Bell, a PR guru and friend of Berezovsky, said last night, “He was extremely depressed. He’s been very low since the court ruling against him. He had huge financial problems and personal problems too”. The article cites an interview he did with Forbes Russia, in which he expressed a desire to return to Russia for the first time since his self-imposed exile to the UK, after falling out with President Putin in 2000. According to the Forbes interview, which Berezovsky asked the magazine not to publish, he said, “his life no longer made sense”, and that if he were to return to Russia, he’d have no future political involvement there.

The Sunday Telegraph (a centre-right broadsheet), meanwhile, went with an obituary of Berezovsky entitled The Rise and Fall of an Oligarch, comparing his life story to a great Russian novel, “full of both charm and treachery”. It told of how a Moscow maths professor became one of the richest men in the world and, subsequently, an enemy of the Kremlin. It suggests that Berezovsky became rich and powerful through “money, charm, and contacts”, benefiting from his friendship with then-President Boris Yeltsin, whom he met in 1993, and taking control of various state assets at a time when the Russian economy was struggling. The obituary also went into his relationship with his fellow oligarch Abramovich; it related how the failed damages claim against the Chelsea owner, along with a series of other detrimental court cases, chipped away at his wealth. It ended by saying, “the former mathematics professor found that the numbers were against him”.

In the upmarket centre-left Guardian, Luke Harding referred to Berezovsky’s unsuccessful attempt to sue Abramovich for 5 billion USD (154.5 billion Roubles. 3.9 billion Euros. 3.3 billion UK Pounds), the biggest private litigation battle ever, and the impact that this had on his mental wellbeing. Harding wrote that the case ruined him financially, leaving him practically bankrupt. The article suggested that Berezovsky, known for his “relentless energy”, was rarely seen by his friends, and, in recent months, those who did see him described him as “vacant, often confused, and uncharacteristically regretful of past errors”. The Guardian also examined the oligarch’s continuing feud with Vladimir Putin; it looked at the President’s desire to have him extradited back to Russia after the UK granted him asylum back in 2003, and the numerous criminal cases opened up against Berezovsky by Russian investigators. Harding said that the Kremlin “watched Berezovsky’s dramatic fall with unconcealed glee”, whilst it quotes Aleksandr Goldfarb, a close friend of the Russian businessman, as saying that President Putin would “personally rejoice at the news’ of his death”… calling Berezovsky the Kremlin’s bogeyman. The article ended by saying that Berezovsky’s feud with Putin ultimately led up to his death.

The BBC’s Bridget Kendall called Berezovsky “larger than life” and she looked at Berezovsky’s relationship with President Putin. She pointed up how Berezovsky, once a strong advocate of Putin as a suitable successor to Boris Yeltsin for the presidency, said that he failed to realise Putin’s “true colours”; and how they fell out over the crisis in Chechnya, as well as state control of Berezovsky’s ORT television station. Kendall questioned Berezovsky’s change of tone in his recent interview with Forbes; she put his change of heart and desire to return to his motherland to the fact that his political focus always remained on Russia.

 For the foreseeable future, specially-trained police officers will continue to scour Berezovsky’s home, and the estate where he lives will remain cordoned off. The tycoon’s body remains inside. However, given the murky circumstances that surrounded his death, the British media are certainly raising their eyebrows over how Berezovsky may have died. His financial downfall following the Abramovich court case appears to have weighed heavy on Berezovsky. For now, the press in Britain will keep at their fascination with, possibly, the most colourful of all the Russian oligarchs.

24 March 2013

Tim Walklate

Voice of Russia World Service

http://english.ruvr.ru/2013_03_24/British-press-reacting-to-Berezovsky-death/

Police say No Initial Signs Others Involved in Berezovsky’s Death

00 Boris Berezovsky

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On Sunday, British police said there were no initial signs that anyone else was involved in the death of exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky at his mansion outside London. Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Brown of Thames Valley Police said, “We don’t have any evidence at this stage to suggest third party involvement”, although he added that the 67-year-old’s death remained “unexplained”.

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On Monday, the Russian Embassy in London shall issue a statement in connection with the death of fugitive Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky. The announcement came from an Embassy spokesman.

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On Sunday, British police investigating the death of exiled Russian oligarch and Kremlin critic Boris Berezovsky said that a search of his house by chemical, biological, and nuclear experts found “nothing of concern”. Superintendent Simon Bowden of Surrey Police, the upmarket area outside London where Berezovsky’s body was found at his mansion on Saturday, said, “I’m pleased to say the CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) officers found nothing of concern in the property and we’re now progressing the investigation as normal”.

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Presidential spokesman Dmitri Peskov said that we shouldn’t be hasty in our discussion of having Boris Berezovsky’s burial in Russia. In an interview with Dozhd TV, Peskov said, “I wouldn’t discuss this issue as it’s hypothetical. If such a request is made… let’s wait for it to be made, and see how it’ll be made… then, a decision would probably be made in Moscow“.

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On Sunday, a source close to the Berezovsky family told reporters that the relatives of Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who died in the UK on Saturday, still haven’t decided on the possible place of his burial, but they’re confident that he died of natural causes. A source told Interfax, citing Berezovsky’s relatives, “Now, we can say with 100 percent certainty that the death was due to natural causes. There’s been no discussion of the place of his possible burial yet. The family doesn’t even know when the investigation will be completed, when a final death certificate will be issued, and when the body will be given to the relatives”. In speaking about when the authorities will likely hand over the body to relatives, the source mentioned that the investigation following the death of Berezovsky’s business partner Badri Patarkatsishvili took about two weeks. When asked whether the relatives would ask permission for them to bury Berezovsky in Russia, the source said, “I think there’s little probability of that, as many of Berezovsky’s friends wouldn’t be able to attend the funeral for various reasons. Although, it would be great if the family could bury Berezovsky in Russia.”

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Michael John Smith, an intelligence expert and the last person convicted of spying for the USSR in the UK, stated in a VOR interview that information just came in that disgraced oligarch Boris Berezovsky may have died on Friday night and that his bodyguard found him in his bath at about 11.00 UTC (04.00 PDT. 07.00 EDT. 15.00 MSK. 22.00 AEST). According Mr Smith, citing official sources, no one called the ambulance until 15.30 UTC (08.30 PDT. 12.30 EDT. 19.30 MSK. 02.30 24 March AEST). There are conflicting versions as to the reason for the delay in calling the authorities, but according to Smith, it’s clear from media reports and statements by relatives and friends of Berezovsky that they received word of his death around lunch time.

24 March 2013

Voice of Russia World Service

http://english.ruvr.ru/2013_03_24/No-initial-signs-others-involved-in-Berezovsky-death-police/

http://english.ruvr.ru/2013_03_24/Russian-Embassy-to-comment-on-Berezovsky-death-Monday/

http://english.ruvr.ru/2013_03_24/Police-find-nothing-in-radiation-search-of-Berezovsky-home/

http://english.ruvr.ru/2013_03_24/Russia-may-consider-Berezovskys-burial-in-Russia-if-appropriate-request-is-made/

http://english.ruvr.ru/2013_03_24/Berezovsky-family-believe-his-death-was-natural-source/

http://english.ruvr.ru/2013_03_24/Boris-Berezovsky-may-have-died-on-Friday/

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