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