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BBC Monitoring
Russian analyst comments on rise and fall of tycoon Berezovskiy
Source: TVS, Moscow, in Russian 0339 gmt 3 Apr 03

A court in London is considering Russia's request to extradite Boris Berezovskiy, influential media mogul and power broker of the 1990s, who is accused of financial fraud. Yuliya Latynina, Novaya Gazeta observer presenting the "Yest Mneniye" (My Opinion) morning commentary slot on the Russian independent TV channel, is convinced that Berezovskiy was ousted from Russia because he had helped Vladimir Putin to become president but charged him too much for the assistance. The following is an excerpt from the commentary broadcast by Russian TVS television on 3 April:

Hearings into [Boris] Berezovskiy's extradition case have started in London. Russian prosecutors are asking their British colleagues to hand Boris Abramovich [Berezovskiy] over to them in connection with the theft of 2,000 vehicles from AvtoVAZ [Russian car manufacturer]. The British haezovskiy's bid for political asylum but left him free so far...

I won't make wild guesses as to the final decision of the impartial British court. But the real guilt of Berezovskiy is known to everybody in Russia. He found himself in London not because of 2,000 Lada cars, the Aeroflot [national air carrier] case or the privatization of the Sibneft [oil company]. He has the same problem as the old man's wife from [Aleksandr] Pushkin's fairy tale about an old man and a golden fish. [An old man caught a magic fish and let it go back to the sea; the grateful fish promised to fulfil any wish; the old man's greedy wife wanted too much and demanded to become sea queen, as a result they lost everything] He did everything to help Putin become president, but, as usual, added a couple of extra zeros to the bill Putin had to pay.

Berezovskiy is one of the creators of present-day Russia. He was the first who used power as the most high-income financial instrument...

In fact, he was Russia's first spin doctor rather that Russia's first business tycoon. He did not finish any business project. He failed to buy AvtoVAZ. He was too lazy to privatize Aeroflot. He even failed to keep Sibneft in his hands, though it was actually granted to him by a presidential decree. Only two of his projects were successful, and both related to public relations rather than business: the project Yeltsin instead of Zyuganov and the project Putin instead of Primakov...

He found no place for himself in the new Russia not only because he wanted to become a sea queen. Another reason was that he is a gambler and not a businessman by nature. Making money did not give him much excitement. He wanted to gamble and win, and his empire was built on the art of bluff. The empires that survive in the new Russia are built on oil, steel and aluminium.

He tried to take revenge on the president by accusing him of masterminding the Moscow blasts [terrorist attacks in September 1999]. It might seem a terrible blow, especially because it was carried out by the man who managed to drop [2000 presidential hopeful Yevgeniy] Primakov from the race by charging him just with knee surgery. But Berezovskiy forgot that there is only one kind of statement less reliable than a statement coming from Russian authorities - that made by Boris Berezovskiy himself.

His guilt before Russia is much bigger than the theft of 2,000 cars, like Al Capone's guilt couldn't be reduced to tax evasion. His services to Russia might be as big as his guilt.

Boris Abramovich is too flamboyant for the country in which the grey begin and win. We should speak of him in the past. He already belongs to the history of Yeltsin's era, and only the efforts of prosecutors can put him in the spotlight again.

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