By Robert Coalson/
Boris Berezovsky – who was found dead of as yet undetermined causes in his London home on March 23 – was a key figure among those who brought Vladimir Putin to power in 1999. And although Berezovsky was driven into exile by the end of 2000, over the years he became something of a necessary feature of Putin’s Russia.
Independent political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky wrote shortly after the businessman’s death that Putin and Berezovsky were “the Stalin and Trotsky of our time.”
In an interview with gazeta.ru, leading television moderator Vladimir Solovyov recalled his recent conversations with Berezovsky, saying that the one-time oligarch “lingered on the smallest details of their relationship” like “an offended, abandoned wife speaking about her husband who is gone.”
Despite widespread speculation that Putin would be delighted with the news of Berezovsky’s death, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov struck a different note in comments on to Dozhd television on March 24.
“I am not aware of how the president reacted [to Berezovsky’s death],” he said. “All I can say is, whoever it is, the news of anyone’s death is always sad.”
For years now, Kremlin-controlled media have heaped scorn on the 1990s as a time of lawlessness that nearly destroyed Russia. And Berezovsky was the emblem of all that Putin had saved Russia from.
Igor Bunin, director of the Center for Political Technologies, told gazeta.ru that Berezovsky “was used in Russia as the image of a terrible evil that was to blame for everything. The figure of Berezovsky was demonized.”
Berezovsky was an easy target for demonization thanks to his questionable business dealings, his penchant for secrecy and closed-door skullduggery, his unprincipled melding of business and politics, and the tendency of his business rivals and personal enemies to meet violent ends. His long list of sins seemed somehow to cancel out in the public mind startlingly similar accusations against Putin and his inner circle.
Public relations specialist Igor Mintusov told gazeta.ru that Berezovsky played such a crucial role as “the enemy” for Putin’s ruling elite that “they will have to replace him.”
In this regard, Berezovsky was a victim of a tactic he himself perfected when he dominated Russia’s media landscape in the 1990s.
Police Find No Evidence Of ‘Third-Party Involvement’ In Berezovsky Death/
British police say their initial investigation has not turned up any evidence suggesting “third-party involvement” in the death of Boris Berezovsky.
The police statement issued on March 24 comes after experts in chemical, biological and nuclear materials searched the self-exiled Russian tycoon’s home in Ascot, west of London, where his body was found the previous day.
According to police, the specialists’ examination had found “nothing of concern.” An earlier statement said searches by the experts were being carried out as a “precaution” to protect officers investigating the death.
Police have previously described Berezovsky’s death as “unexplained.”
According to the authorities, an employee of Berezovsky said he called an ambulance on March 24 after becoming concerned for the former oligarch’s welfare.
They said the employee told police he forced open a locked bathroom door and discovered Berezovsky’s body on the floor.
Berezovsky was pronounced dead by a paramedic.
Police told reporters on March 24 that it would be wrong to speculate on the cause of death until an autopsy is completed.
Russia’s embassy in London says it will issue a statement on March 25 about Berezovsky’s death.
Berezovsky, 67, a prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin, was found dead Saturday. British media reported he was found dead in his bath.
Berezovsky’s friend and fellow Kremlin critic, the ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, was killed by radioactive poisoning in London in 2006.
Litvinenko’s widow has called the death an assassination by Russian agents. This has been denied by Moscow.
Berezovsky had been prominent among the group of Russian businessmen known as the oligarchs who grew rich from the privatization of state assets following the collapse of Soviet communism.
Boris Berezovsky in 2011
Berezovsky made his fortune in the early 1990s by selling cars. He then moved into oil, buying the Sibneft oil company. He also built a media empire.
He survived several assassination attempts, including one that decapitated his driver in the early 1990s.
Berezovsky was an influential Kremlin insider under former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, whose reelection he supported in 1996.
Berezovsky helped current Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rise to succeed Yeltsin in 2000.
But when Putin moved to curb the political powers of the oligarchs, Berezovsky left Russia for self-imposed exile in Britain, where he was granted political asylum in 2003.
From London, he became one of Putin’s most outspoken critics. The harsh words he used in a 2007 interview were typical of his rhetoric from exile.
“Putin’s Russia is very dangerous for democracy, not only inside of Russia, but also outside of Russia. It means that Russia is very dangerous for the West and I think the sooner the West recognizes that Russia is not an ally, that Russia is not a partner — I mean Putin’s Russia — this will help the West more quickly find the tools to protect themselves,” Berezovsky said.
Berezovsky was a wanted man in Russia where he had been convicted and sentenced to jail in absentia on embezzlement charges.
Twitter Reacts To Berezovsky’s Death
Last year, he lost a bitter and expensive legal battle in London against fellow Russian tycoon and Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich.
Berezovsky’s wealth is thought to have considerably diminished in recent years.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian state television on March 23 that Berezovsky had recenty asked Putin for “forgiveness for his mistakes” and for help to return to Russia.
Peskov said that “some time ago, maybe a couple of months ago” Berezovsky had sent Putin a letter. He said he did not know how Putin had reacted to Berezovsky’s letter.
He said Putin “had been informed” of Berezovsky’s death.
The Russian-language website of “Forbes” magazine has published what was described as Berezovksy’s last interview.
Berezovsky is quoted by journalist Ilya Zhegulev as saying his “life no longer makes sense” and that he wanted more than to return to Russia.
Zhegulev said it had been an informal interview given by Berezovsky on Friday evening and had not been recorded.