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BBC Monitoring
Russian media tycoon predicts Putin chief aide's fall in live TV interview
Source: Channel 3 TV, Moscow, in Russian 1500 gmt 8 Dec 01

[Presenter Mikhail Svetlichnyy] I have been told that Boris Abramovich [Berezovskiy] joined us live just now. He is in a London studio. Boris Abramovich? Sorry, I do not hear you. Thank you for coming to the London studio. Did you hear our conversation [with previous guest of the programme, Russian Liberal Democratic MP Aleksey Mitrofanov]?

[Berezovskiy] Yes, I did.

[Presenter] We had to continue it because the link failed.

[Berezovskiy] Naturally.

[Presenter] Boris Abramovich, I want to start with a question about your well-known letter [Berezovskiy's "Letter from London" addressed to "Messrs Anatoliy Chubays, Aleksandr Voloshin, Mikhail Kasyanov, and others whom Boris Yeltsin's enemies call 'the Family'", published by Berezovskiy-owned Moscow paper Nezavisimaya Gazeta on 4 December]. Do you really think that the people whom you mentioned really belong to some big "Family"?

[Berezovskiy] I addressed my letter to this people not by accident. I heard your conversation with Mr Mitrofanov. I would like to combine these two topics into one. Let Mr Mitrofanov forgive me, but I want to translate what he said from Russian into Russian. He said that the main problem of present-day Russia was absence of an opposition. I addressed these gentlemen and nobody else not to make them feel as members of a single big family, though I highly respect everything done by Boris Nikolayevich and see him as a great liberal and Russia's reformer. I think it is a great honour to be a member of his family.

First and foremost, I addressed these gentlemen because I believe that their experience, their prestige in society and their views definitely make them most appropriate figures for the creation of what present-day Russia needs most of all - a liberal opposition. This was my intention.

When Mr Mitrofanov says that a new president needs a new team, I completely agree with him. But this would be so if one party was replaced by another party and the executive authority was replaced by a different team with different ideas formed by the winning opposition. The absence of the main element of a democratic state, an opposition, prevents [our political system] from functioning in a normal mode, like all liberal world does.

[Presenter] Boris Abramovich, your habit to exaggerate is widely known. When you speak about a threat to liberal values in Russia and a totalitarian alternative, many people probably perceive it too literally. Meanwhile, there is evidently no threat to liberalism if market economy and democratic rule are meant.

[Berezovskiy] No, quite on the contrary. The basic foundation of a liberal state is its government institutions. As compared with this, the economy is of secondary importance. The main point is whether citizens' freedom is guaranteed or not. The main point is the government system. Is the state authority distributed between the constituent parts of the federation and between the arms of government or concentrated in hands of one person? This determines all the rest.

All I could see in the last two years were different manifestations of the president's bid to concentrate power in his hands. Let us recollect the recent past. The same people who enthusiastically applaud the president concentrating all power in his hands said in the Yeltsin time that the presidential powers were incredibly large and should be reduced. I absolutely agreed with them at that moment, but why did they change their opinion all of a sudden? Why do they believe now that power should be concentrated in hands of one person?

[Presenter] Let me remind you of a forecast you made in a earlier interview. You said that President Putin would step down before the end of his term of presidency. Another time you even set a deadline - this autumn. However, on the New Year's eve there is no indication, even the slightest one, to such turn of events.

[Berezovskiy] In actual fact, I never said that he would quit in autumn. I really said he would quit before the end of the year [2001]. I also said that he would go before the end of his first presidential term. But the 11 September events [terrorist attacks in New York and Washington] radically changed the situation. Putin made enough mistakes so that his further stay at his post could be seriously questioned this autumn. But the 11 September events changed the situation. The president reacted to them adequately, though not to a full extent. So, my forecast should be corrected in wake of the global catastrophe on 11 September. However, I still insist that President Putin would not stay in office until the end of his first constitutional term.

[Presenter] More about your grave forecasts. We know from Russian literature about an idea of a convulsion that could be provoked by somebody and then have unpredictable consequences. [Fedor] Dostoyevskiy wrote about this, if you remember. My second point is that you are often described as a person feeling uncomfortable in a normal situation and always trying to radicalise it. Can your forecasts be connected with the fact that you feel uncomfortable after being pushed aside from Russian politics?

[Berezovskiy] I chose this road voluntarily, I want to stress this. I am defending my views openly and sincerely. Those who have no other argument except blocking my return to Russia, actually confirm that my position is important for them. They pay attention to it. You referred to the classic [Dostoyevskiy] saying that I tried to radicalise the situation. It's true. This is the only way to care about the future and not the present day alone. I try to look forward and find out what prevents Russia from becoming a normal democratic country. I try to throw light on existing problems.

[Presenter] You were a corresponding member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, so you should know that a so-called corporate state which represents various interests and is regulated by the government can often be met in modern world. The market economy successfully exists in such states. You speak about a threat to liberalism. Don't you think that Russia is a specific and vast country that needs certain degree of control and that democratic and market reforms in it are hardly possible without an active role of the government?

[Berezovskiy] My academic past is irrelevant, because I worked on a different subject [cybernetics] than political science or history. Meanwhile, in the last 10 years I was seriously interested in Russian political life, and it was more than just idle curiosity. I am sure that Russia has specific features like any other country. Japan, France and the USA are all different but there are some general principles, too. I am against destruction of these general principles. The priority of individual over government, not the priority of government over individual, is one of the fundamentals of a liberal state. New Russian President Putin is building quite an opposite model [of a state]. I am against this. As for specific features, they certainly exist and should be reckoned with in the framework of a universal model, like did all other countries that are successfully functioning in modern world.

[Presenter] At the end let me ask you a concrete question bringing us to the beginning of our conversation. Do you believe that the split in the presidential entourage, in Putin's team cannot be liquidated and Mr [head of presidential administration Aleksandr] Voloshin would have to resign?

[Berezovskiy] I believe sincerely, and not for the sake of an empty phrase or some political game of which Mr political expert [presumably, Mitrofanov] suspects all his opponents, that there is a genetic incompatibility between policies of the St Petersburg team, especially those its members who were connected with special services in the past, and the team inherited by President Putin [from Yeltsin]. They are genetically incompatible. This is why Voloshin and his team will inevitably quit.

[Presenter] When, do you think?

[Berezovskiy] Well, I have realized that making concrete forecasts is indiscreet, because some unpredictable circumstances can emerge. But I believe that this team will leave their current posts in spring.

[Presenter] OK, let us see whether Boris Abramovich Berezovskiy's forecast will come true this time. Thank you for participating in our programme, Boris Abramovich. This was a direct linkup from London.

[broadcast at 1513 gmt]

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