Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.
 

Boris Berezovsky

Expand Messages
  • Robert Sterling
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com Boris Berezovsky: The first oligarch A film
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 5, 2006
      Please send as far and wide as possible.

      Thanks,
      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist
      http://www.konformist.com

      Boris Berezovsky: The first oligarch
      A film based on his adventurous life drew gasps from Russian
      audiences for the opulence showed
      By Mary Dejevsky
      Published: 25 November 2006
      http://news.independent.co.uk

      As Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian spy, lay dying in a
      London hospital, regular bulletins on his condition were supplied
      not by his family and only rarely by the hospital. The head
      messenger was the energetic and voluble Alex Goldfarb, who described
      himself as a close friend of the stricken agent. He could also have
      been described, no less accurately, as the right-hand man of Boris
      Berezovsky, the fugitive oligarch exiled in Britain who heads the
      list of Russia's "most wanted".

      Wherever and whenever Alex Goldfarb turns up, you can be pretty
      certain that Berezovsky is pulling the strings. And in this case,
      the Berezovsky link was more transparent than it often is: the
      oligarch enjoyed a uniquely symbiotic relationship with Litvinenko,
      which began when the spy saved his life. Litvinenko, so the story
      goes, refused orders from his then employer, Russia's internal
      security service (FSB), to have Berezovsky murdered. Berezovsky
      returned the favour by assisting Litvinenko to defect to Britain
      when he was charged by the Russian authorities with treason.

      This was six years ago. Berezovsky's subsequent role in Litvinenko's
      life - as Litvinenko's in his - is shrouded in the mystery that
      obscures so many exiled Russian plutocrats. But there is evidence
      that they kept up at very least what might be called a business
      relationship. Berezovsky sponsored a book that Litvinenko published
      in 2003, supposedly lifting the lid on the murkier doings of the
      FSB. If, as has been said, Litvinenko was investigating the contract-
      killing of the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya at the time he
      fell ill, this is likely to have been at Berezovsky's instigation,
      too. Berezovsky is reliably reported to have been at Litvinenko's
      bedside on the day the media were first made aware of his illness.

      While a personal friendship may have grown up between the two men,
      Litvinenko had contacts and information that could have been of
      great help to Berezovsky. As an agent through the years of Vladimir
      Putin's rise to the Russian presidency, he claimed to know where
      many bodies were buried. And anything that besmirched Putin was
      grist to the mill of Berezovsky, who aspired to lead an organised
      opposition to Putin from abroad.

      The origins of Berezovsky's venom against Putin go back a decade.
      Then in their 40s, the two men were highly competitive Kremlin
      wannabes, vying for influence at President Boris Yeltsin's court.
      Berezovsky had a head start, ingratiating himself into Yeltsin's
      inner circle - the so-called "family" - by dint of his money and
      connections. Seen as the original oligarch, he was already the
      richest and most influential of Russia's new tycoons, a compulsive
      networker with fingers in many pies.

      His influence was at its most valuable to Yeltsin in 1996. Six
      months before the scheduled presidential election, Yeltsin's
      popularity ratings stood at a catastrophic 30 per cent. His chief
      rival was the far-right nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who was
      well placed to beat him. Berezovsky deployed his money and influence
      lavishly, forming a group of oligarchs, the "Big Seven", to
      underwrite Yeltsin's campaign. They media outlets they then owned
      were dedicated to a schedule of "all Yeltsin all the time".

      The voters gave their President another four years. The West
      breathed a sigh of relief, and Berezovsky reaped his reward.
      Initially it was the mostly honorific post of deputy secretary of
      the National Security Council, then secretary of a Kremlin group co-
      ordinating the so-called Commonwealth of Independent States - the
      body trying to maintain economic and political links between the
      states of the former Soviet Union.

      As Berezovsky tells it, it was during this time that he conducted
      peace negotiations - often secretly - with rebellious Chechnya. His
      first-hand dealings with Chechen leaders left him with an enduring
      sympathy for this mountain people and their seemingly doomed quest
      for autonomy. Until recently, he claimed still to be involved in
      efforts to forge a settlement.

      By 1998, Berezovsky's star at the Kremlin was fading, just as
      Vladimir Putin's started to shine bright. With Yeltsin not standing
      for election again, Berezovsky's services as media Svengali and
      chief financier were less in demand. The currency crash of that year
      prompted public questions about the oligarchs' fortunes. Berezovsky
      left Yeltsin's entourage the following year.

      He decided to try his luck as a front-line politician, and was duly
      elected the member of parliament for Karachayevo-Cherkessiya, a
      region not only close to Chechnya, but also one where money talks.
      An additional advantage of this move was the immunity from
      prosecution a Duma seat afforded. He may have calculated that for
      four years he would be safe.

      At the same time, Berezovsky had to watch as the ailing Yeltsin
      relied more and more on Putin. Berezovsky had become seriously
      disenchanted with Putin, a man with whom five years before he had
      been on skiing terms. He now saw Putin as a sporty little upstart
      from St Petersburg who was applying his second-rate secret agent's
      brain to keeping the precarious Russian government functioning.

      At the end of 1999, it was Putin who was anointed by Yeltsin as his
      successor. Berezovsky was cast aside. All his hard work trying to
      solve the Chechen problem had been negated by a war he believed
      Putin had begun as an election ploy. Threatened with prosecution for
      fraud in connection with his holdings in the state airline Aeroflot
      and the privatised state car company, Logovaz, he made one of his
      many visits to London permanent.

      That this stubborn and scheming tycoon chose exile was perhaps a
      less unlikely outcome than the fact that he had come so close to
      power at all. A congenital outsider, Berezovsky was able to turn to
      his benefit the brief period of extreme social and political
      mobility that followed the break-up of the Soviet Union. Born in
      Moscow into a modest Jewish family, he was academically ambitious,
      but thwarted in his first choice of study - space science - by the
      restrictions on the numbers of Jewish students in certain faculties.
      After a series of junior research positions, he finally obtained a
      doctorate in computer science at the age of 37.

      He was 40 when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power and the political
      landscape began to change. In 1989 - ahead of most - he sensed the
      way the wind was blowing and made the leap into business. And
      questionable business some of it was, too. As he tells it, he built
      his fortune on a couple of second-hand Mercedes cars he bought in
      what was then East Germany, which he resold at a large profit in
      Russia.

      But the myth that has grown up around him is replete with hair-
      raising stories of hijacked trains, nocturnal visits to car assembly
      lines in southern Russia, secret cash deals, all liberally spiced
      with armed thugs and unexplained disappearances. A risk-taker par
      excellence, Berezovsky thrived in the volatility of those years,
      amassing a fortune that took him from cars into oil, aluminium and
      property and - as his weapon in what he anticipated would be the
      battles ahead - into television and newspapers.

      His lifestyle - with its fast cars, servants, a palatial residence
      outside Moscow and vicious guard dogs - was the stuff of legend. His
      renown was such that a Russian director made a film, Oligarch,
      apparently based on his adventurous life. It was released in 2002,
      and drew gasps from Russian audiences for the private opulence it
      showed.

      Before leaving Moscow for what he hoped in 2000 would be temporary
      exile, Berezovsky formed an opposition party, Liberal Russia,
      intended to unite leading businessmen and other devotees of a free
      market who felt that their interests were threatened by Putin. The
      party was plagued with splits and petered out. But politics - or
      more correctly, perhaps, politicking - remains Berezovsky's passion.
      He may be sustained financially in London by his extensive property
      portfolio and his oil interests, but it is opposition politics that
      is his true lifeblood.

      He works out of an office in Mayfair that is imbued with a faint air
      of menace. A slight man, with features somewhat reminiscent -
      ironically - of Lenin, he employs large, surly bodyguards, a fleet
      of black-glassed 4x4s, reputedly armour plated, and commutes into
      town from his country estate in Surrey. He claims that the Russian
      authorities have tried to kill him at least three times and he is
      careful about public appearances. He travels mostly in convoy,
      altering his route and his drivers and speeding with apparent
      impunity.

      He has been progressively shorn of his media interests in Russia. He
      sold his controlling stake in the Kommersant newspaper earlier this
      year, prompting speculation that he might need the money. His
      official political vehicle in Britain is a group curiously called
      the Civil Rights Foundation, which he seems to do little publicly to
      promote, but may channel money to opposition groups in the former
      USSR. Berezovsky boasted that he had funded Ukraine's Orange
      revolution.

      If his attempts to foment revolution in and around Russia have so
      far failed, however, Berezovsky was hugely successful in insinuating
      himself into the clubs and salons of London. Suave and charming, he
      was lionised as a successful and wealthy opponent of the present
      regime in Russia. Always ready with flashy quotes, always game to
      appear on platforms to denounce his arch-foe, Vladimir Putin, he has
      proved almost as masterly an image-maker in his adopted country as
      he was in Russia. A Channel 4 documentary this year suggested he was
      singlehandedly responsible for the negative image of Putin's Russia
      that prevails among Britain's chattering classes.

      There are signs, though, that his power is waning. His ability to
      mesmerise the great and good went into decline after the Chechen
      attack on Beslan. He is not confident enough in English to dominate
      a platform alone. And earlier this year, the then foreign secretary
      Jack Straw took the unusual step of warning him publicly that he
      must cease to advocate the violent overthrow of Putin or risk
      forfeiting his refugee status.

      Russia would dearly love to get its hands on Berezovsky. Even after
      six years away, in Russia his name is still synonymous to many with
      the great privatisation swindle of the 1990s. And Putin would surely
      see his downfall as a personal triumph. Berezovsky, though, for all
      his scheming is a shrewd and cautious survivor. He keeps at arm's
      length from the action - a puppeteer invisibly pulling fewer and
      fewer strings.

      A Life in Brief

      BORN 23 January 1946, in Moscow.

      FAMILY Six children by four marriages.

      EDUCATION 1968: graduated from Moscow forestry engineering
      institute; 1983: doctorate in computer science, Moscow State
      University.

      CAREER 1969-87: research fellow, Russian Academy of Sciences; 1989:
      used car business; 1992: buys into oil company Sibneft; 1995: buys
      into ORT; 1996: joins Yeltsin's re-election campaign; 1999: elected
      to Duma; 2000: sets up Liberal Russia party but, facing charges of
      embezzlement, flees to London; 2003: granted political asylum in
      Britain.

      HE SAYS "I am very bad at understanding people. I don't know who is
      a traitor, who is good, who is bad. But I'm good at understanding
      process."

      THEY SAY "He is not an easy person to work with because of his
      impulsive character and short attention span... But he is a
      phenomenon." - Alex Goldfarb

      As Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian spy, lay dying in a
      London hospital, regular bulletins on his condition were supplied
      not by his family and only rarely by the hospital. The head
      messenger was the energetic and voluble Alex Goldfarb, who described
      himself as a close friend of the stricken agent. He could also have
      been described, no less accurately, as the right-hand man of Boris
      Berezovsky, the fugitive oligarch exiled in Britain who heads the
      list of Russia's "most wanted".

      Wherever and whenever Alex Goldfarb turns up, you can be pretty
      certain that Berezovsky is pulling the strings. And in this case,
      the Berezovsky link was more transparent than it often is: the
      oligarch enjoyed a uniquely symbiotic relationship with Litvinenko,
      which began when the spy saved his life. Litvinenko, so the story
      goes, refused orders from his then employer, Russia's internal
      security service (FSB), to have Berezovsky murdered. Berezovsky
      returned the favour by assisting Litvinenko to defect to Britain
      when he was charged by the Russian authorities with treason.

      This was six years ago. Berezovsky's subsequent role in Litvinenko's
      life - as Litvinenko's in his - is shrouded in the mystery that
      obscures so many exiled Russian plutocrats. But there is evidence
      that they kept up at very least what might be called a business
      relationship. Berezovsky sponsored a book that Litvinenko published
      in 2003, supposedly lifting the lid on the murkier doings of the
      FSB. If, as has been said, Litvinenko was investigating the contract-
      killing of the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya at the time he
      fell ill, this is likely to have been at Berezovsky's instigation,
      too. Berezovsky is reliably reported to have been at Litvinenko's
      bedside on the day the media were first made aware of his illness.

      While a personal friendship may have grown up between the two men,
      Litvinenko had contacts and information that could have been of
      great help to Berezovsky. As an agent through the years of Vladimir
      Putin's rise to the Russian presidency, he claimed to know where
      many bodies were buried. And anything that besmirched Putin was
      grist to the mill of Berezovsky, who aspired to lead an organised
      opposition to Putin from abroad.

      The origins of Berezovsky's venom against Putin go back a decade.
      Then in their 40s, the two men were highly competitive Kremlin
      wannabes, vying for influence at President Boris Yeltsin's court.
      Berezovsky had a head start, ingratiating himself into Yeltsin's
      inner circle - the so-called "family" - by dint of his money and
      connections. Seen as the original oligarch, he was already the
      richest and most influential of Russia's new tycoons, a compulsive
      networker with fingers in many pies.

      His influence was at its most valuable to Yeltsin in 1996. Six
      months before the scheduled presidential election, Yeltsin's
      popularity ratings stood at a catastrophic 30 per cent. His chief
      rival was the far-right nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who was
      well placed to beat him. Berezovsky deployed his money and influence
      lavishly, forming a group of oligarchs, the "Big Seven", to
      underwrite Yeltsin's campaign. They media outlets they then owned
      were dedicated to a schedule of "all Yeltsin all the time".

      The voters gave their President another four years. The West
      breathed a sigh of relief, and Berezovsky reaped his reward.
      Initially it was the mostly honorific post of deputy secretary of
      the National Security Council, then secretary of a Kremlin group co-
      ordinating the so-called Commonwealth of Independent States - the
      body trying to maintain economic and political links between the
      states of the former Soviet Union.

      As Berezovsky tells it, it was during this time that he conducted
      peace negotiations - often secretly - with rebellious Chechnya. His
      first-hand dealings with Chechen leaders left him with an enduring
      sympathy for this mountain people and their seemingly doomed quest
      for autonomy. Until recently, he claimed still to be involved in
      efforts to forge a settlement.

      By 1998, Berezovsky's star at the Kremlin was fading, just as
      Vladimir Putin's started to shine bright. With Yeltsin not standing
      for election again, Berezovsky's services as media Svengali and
      chief financier were less in demand. The currency crash of that year
      prompted public questions about the oligarchs' fortunes. Berezovsky
      left Yeltsin's entourage the following year.

      He decided to try his luck as a front-line politician, and was duly
      elected the member of parliament for Karachayevo-Cherkessiya, a
      region not only close to Chechnya, but also one where money talks.
      An additional advantage of this move was the immunity from
      prosecution a Duma seat afforded. He may have calculated that for
      four years he would be safe.

      At the same time, Berezovsky had to watch as the ailing Yeltsin
      relied more and more on Putin. Berezovsky had become seriously
      disenchanted with Putin, a man with whom five years before he had
      been on skiing terms. He now saw Putin as a sporty little upstart
      from St Petersburg who was applying his second-rate secret agent's
      brain to keeping the precarious Russian government functioning.

      At the end of 1999, it was Putin who was anointed by Yeltsin as his
      successor. Berezovsky was cast aside. All his hard work trying to
      solve the Chechen problem had been negated by a war he believed
      Putin had begun as an election ploy. Threatened with prosecution for
      fraud in connection with his holdings in the state airline Aeroflot
      and the privatised state car company, Logovaz, he made one of his
      many visits to London permanent.

      That this stubborn and scheming tycoon chose exile was perhaps a
      less unlikely outcome than the fact that he had come so close to
      power at all. A congenital outsider, Berezovsky was able to turn to
      his benefit the brief period of extreme social and political
      mobility that followed the break-up of the Soviet Union. Born in
      Moscow into a modest Jewish family, he was academically ambitious,
      but thwarted in his first choice of study - space science - by the
      restrictions on the numbers of Jewish students in certain faculties.
      After a series of junior research positions, he finally obtained a
      doctorate in computer science at the age of 37.
      He was 40 when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power and the political
      landscape began to change. In 1989 - ahead of most - he sensed the
      way the wind was blowing and made the leap into business. And
      questionable business some of it was, too. As he tells it, he built
      his fortune on a couple of second-hand Mercedes cars he bought in
      what was then East Germany, which he resold at a large profit in
      Russia.

      But the myth that has grown up around him is replete with hair-
      raising stories of hijacked trains, nocturnal visits to car assembly
      lines in southern Russia, secret cash deals, all liberally spiced
      with armed thugs and unexplained disappearances. A risk-taker par
      excellence, Berezovsky thrived in the volatility of those years,
      amassing a fortune that took him from cars into oil, aluminium and
      property and - as his weapon in what he anticipated would be the
      battles ahead - into television and newspapers.

      His lifestyle - with its fast cars, servants, a palatial residence
      outside Moscow and vicious guard dogs - was the stuff of legend. His
      renown was such that a Russian director made a film, Oligarch,
      apparently based on his adventurous life. It was released in 2002,
      and drew gasps from Russian audiences for the private opulence it
      showed.

      Before leaving Moscow for what he hoped in 2000 would be temporary
      exile, Berezovsky formed an opposition party, Liberal Russia,
      intended to unite leading businessmen and other devotees of a free
      market who felt that their interests were threatened by Putin. The
      party was plagued with splits and petered out. But politics - or
      more correctly, perhaps, politicking - remains Berezovsky's passion.
      He may be sustained financially in London by his extensive property
      portfolio and his oil interests, but it is opposition politics that
      is his true lifeblood.

      He works out of an office in Mayfair that is imbued with a faint air
      of menace. A slight man, with features somewhat reminiscent -
      ironically - of Lenin, he employs large, surly bodyguards, a fleet
      of black-glassed 4x4s, reputedly armour plated, and commutes into
      town from his country estate in Surrey. He claims that the Russian
      authorities have tried to kill him at least three times and he is
      careful about public appearances. He travels mostly in convoy,
      altering his route and his drivers and speeding with apparent
      impunity.

      He has been progressively shorn of his media interests in Russia. He
      sold his controlling stake in the Kommersant newspaper earlier this
      year, prompting speculation that he might need the money. His
      official political vehicle in Britain is a group curiously called
      the Civil Rights Foundation, which he seems to do little publicly to
      promote, but may channel money to opposition groups in the former
      USSR. Berezovsky boasted that he had funded Ukraine's Orange
      revolution.

      If his attempts to foment revolution in and around Russia have so
      far failed, however, Berezovsky was hugely successful in insinuating
      himself into the clubs and salons of London. Suave and charming, he
      was lionised as a successful and wealthy opponent of the present
      regime in Russia. Always ready with flashy quotes, always game to
      appear on platforms to denounce his arch-foe, Vladimir Putin, he has
      proved almost as masterly an image-maker in his adopted country as
      he was in Russia. A Channel 4 documentary this year suggested he was
      singlehandedly responsible for the negative image of Putin's Russia
      that prevails among Britain's chattering classes.

      There are signs, though, that his power is waning. His ability to
      mesmerise the great and good went into decline after the Chechen
      attack on Beslan. He is not confident enough in English to dominate
      a platform alone. And earlier this year, the then foreign secretary
      Jack Straw took the unusual step of warning him publicly that he
      must cease to advocate the violent overthrow of Putin or risk
      forfeiting his refugee status.

      Russia would dearly love to get its hands on Berezovsky. Even after
      six years away, in Russia his name is still synonymous to many with
      the great privatisation swindle of the 1990s. And Putin would surely
      see his downfall as a personal triumph. Berezovsky, though, for all
      his scheming is a shrewd and cautious survivor. He keeps at arm's
      length from the action - a puppeteer invisibly pulling fewer and
      fewer strings.

      A Life in Brief

      BORN 23 January 1946, in Moscow.

      FAMILY Six children by four marriages.

      EDUCATION 1968: graduated from Moscow forestry engineering
      institute; 1983: doctorate in computer science, Moscow State
      University.

      CAREER 1969-87: research fellow, Russian Academy of Sciences; 1989:
      used car business; 1992: buys into oil company Sibneft; 1995: buys
      into ORT; 1996: joins Yeltsin's re-election campaign; 1999: elected
      to Duma; 2000: sets up Liberal Russia party but, facing charges of
      embezzlement, flees to London; 2003: granted political asylum in
      Britain.

      HE SAYS "I am very bad at understanding people. I don't know who is
      a traitor, who is good, who is bad. But I'm good at understanding
      process."

      THEY SAY "He is not an easy person to work with because of his
      impulsive character and short attention span... But he is a
      phenomenon." - Alex Goldfarb
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.