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#9 - RW 7268
Sunday Telegraph (UK)
July 27, 2003
How the TV tycoon fell foul of the Kremlin
By Simon Bell 

Boris Berezovsky, 57, was the "first among equals" in the group of Russian oligarchs who rose to wealth and power in the 1990s.

As a member of Russia's Academy of Science - and a much-published scientific writer - he set up his LogoVAZ joint stock company in 1989, as soon as private business was legalised in Russia.

As his businesses developed into oil, aluminium and television, Berezovsky became Boris Yeltsin's closest business adviser, and his ORT television channel, along with Vladimir Gusinsky's NTV, helped propel Yeltsin to the presidency in 1996, defeating a communist comeback.

Berezovsky became deputy secretary of Russia's Security Council and executive secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States (the former USSR) under Yeltsin.

In the maelstrom of Russia in the 1990s, Berezovsky seemed untouchable as both a businessman and politician. He survived a bomb in his car which blew off his chauffeur's head and managed briefly to unite the disparate group of tycoons, who came to be known as the oligarchs, as long as their interests and for those of democracy in Russia coincided.

When Vladimir Putin came to power, initially supported by Berezovsky, a new bureaucracy saw the opportunities they had missed in the 1990s and which men such as Berezovsky had seized. Putin promised not to reverse the controversial privatisations, but when the president began to reverse Yeltsin's political reforms, Berezovsky resigned as an MP in protest.

Putin demanded he hand over his television channel to the Kremlin. Within weeks, Berezovsky and Gusinsky went into exile from Russia, their businesses were seized and their associates were jailed or banished.

Earlier this year, Berezovsky was arrested in the UK, following a request from the Russian authorities for him to be extradited to face fraud charges. The Russian authorities allege that Berezovsky and a business associate used the LogoVAZ car company to defraud a regional government of 1.2bn.

Berezovsky is currently fighting extradition, his lawyers arguing that it is politically motivated and that Berezovsky has no chance of a fair trial under the current regime in Russia.

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