But it appears that Berezovsky’s TV appearance is not the end of his nattering nabobtivity. The Question Time site also states that he will continue to answer questions via email submission. So for all those interested in asking him tips on ripping off nations, swindling colleagues, organizing contact killings, and setting up paper companies now have their chance.
Sounds like good fun.
Special tanks to John for bringing Question Time to my attention.
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By Sean — 11 years ago
More information is coming out about the individuals arrested for Anna Politkovskaya’s murder. Moskovskii komsomolets gives a run down of the suspects. The most high profile suspect is Pavel Riaguzov, 37, a former FSB lieutenant-colonel at the Moscow City Directorate. Riaguzov has been under FSB suspicion for some time for his alleged involvement in organized crime. Riaguzov’s specialty is surveillance. Investigators claim that he tapped Politkovskaya’s phone.
Four others under detention are former police officers Dmitri Lebedev, Dmitri Grachev, Oleg Alimov, and Alexei Berkin. None of them currently work for the police. Their specialties were, according to the Moscow daily, “external surveillance”. I take this to mean that they specialized in tails and monitoring Politkovskaya’s activities outside her home.
There is also Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, 40. Four years ago, Khadzhikurbanov led a police sting against business man Frank Alcapone (aka Fizuli Mamedov). The latter was arrested for possession of a kilo of heroin, which Alcapone ‘s bodyguards claimed police planted on him. He was eventually acquitted for lack of evidence.
Then there are the three brothers Makhmudov–Tamerlan, 36, Dzhabrail, 49, and Ibrahim, 25. All three are Chechen natives. Tamerlan and Ibrahim are Moscow residents, while Dzhabrail resides in Zaraisk, Moscow oblast. Authorities claim that the three had no particular grievance against the outspoken journalist and only participated in the caper for a large sum of money. Murad Musayev, the lawyer for one of the brothers, dismissed the charges as “scare-mongering,” telling the RFE/RL’s North Caucasus Service that Russian Prosecutor General Chaika’s press conference “resembled a certain collage of populist cliches — sort of an essay that combined all the demons of Russia. Individuals from Chechnya, corrupt law-enforcement people, someone vicious and scary who is sitting abroad and contemplating a revolution in Russia, and so on.” He claimed that there was no evidence against his client and that he “did not even know who Politkovskaya was before his arrest,” adding that it appears that only two people are actually connected to the crime. Musayev also claims that his client has been repeatedly abused by Russian police during interrogation, “including being hit over the head with a bottle.”
Then there is the alleged driver (there is always a driver) Akhmed Isayev. Isayev drove the three brothers to the scene. Isayev, a former fish monger and father of one year old triplets, is said to have aided the brothers in obtaining documentation to purchase the car used in the crime.
So far only the Chechens have been officially charged with the murder. It also appears that the Russian authorities aren’t the only ones interested in the perpetrators. Ivars Godmanis, Latvia’s Interior Minister, is planning to ask Russian authorities if they have any information on whether their suspects operated in Latvia. Godmanis thinks that the group might be connected to two unsolved homicides.
Russian Prosecutors are clearly looking to get as much political mileage out of the arrests as the can. Chaika is also claiming that the 10 suspects (or 11, it’s unclear) might also have committed the murders of Forbes journalist Paul Klebnikov and Russia Central Bank head Andrei Kozlov! From the sound of it, these guys are a killing machine that is usually only found on celluloid.
And while the Russian media is focusing on the identities and backgrounds of those arrested, the foreign press, and its Russian representatives, remain focused on the allegation that Berezovsky is behind the murders. The Moscow Times ran an editorial saying that prosecutors will eventually have to provide proof that the hit was commissioned from abroad. If not “questions will linger over whether they carried out an objective investigation or simply built their case around the notion that any action besmirching the Kremlin’s reputation must have been ordered by foes-in-exile.”
Fred Weir of the Christian Science Monitor also devoted his column inches to the Berezovsky connection. Quick to point out the obvious, that Chaika’s assertion that the real criminals hail from abroad was a “political statement”, Weir proceeded to devote the bulk of the article to dismissing the notion of Berezovsky’s involvement.
Sadly, Weir is not alone in beating up on the outrageous claim that Berezovsky was involved. The San Francisco Chronicle filled their report on the arrests with a slew of experts to refute Chaika’s “enemies from abroad” claim. Several papers dealt with the same topic ad nauseum: The New Zealand Herald, Reuters, The Telegraph, and The LA Times. There are more, but you get the picture.
But it seems that the Berezovsky connection is being taken seriously in some quarters. It is no surprise that some Russian politicians are pimping Berezovsky as the devil. Russian Lower Duma rep Gennady Gudkov told Vesti that Politkovskaya’s murder falls into a slew of recent attempts “to compromise the Russian state.” In blog post on the subject, AJ Strata thinks that the idea holds some water. Bucking the supposed conventional wisdom, Strata claims that Berezovsky could certainly be behind the murder, and it could be part of a wider attempt to foment a coup against Putin.
I for one don’t buy the Berezovsky claim and think that it should be quickly dismissed as political theater. One shouldn’t make much of the fact that Russian authorities take any opportunity to bash BAB. As they should. The guy is a bastard and I have no doubt in my mind that he’s criminal that should be extradited to Russia and prosecuted. I also think that if there is one murder that sticks to Berezovsky it is Paul Klebnikov’s. Klebnikov rightly vilified BAB in his Godfather in the Kremlin, exposing the robber baron for numerous crimes. If the British had any sense of justice, they would toss him to Putin’s salivating prosecutors.
But to focus on Berezovsky’s involvement in Politkovskaya’s murder is only fit for the tabloids. It is clear that much of the Russian media understands politics when they see it and instead have moved on to more substantive issues in the story. Ironically, through their constant denial, the very people who reject Chaika’s claim are inadvertently championing its possibility. The constant mention of Berezovsky’s name, even though Chaika himself never once mentioned it, can result in one walking away with some suspicion that maybe he is involved. After all, if the claim is that ridiculous, then why all the effort to dismiss it so forcefully?
By Sean — 5 years ago
Putin is pardoning Mikahil Khodorkovsky.
“In regard to Khodorkovsky, I’ve already said that Mikhail Borisovich must submit the corresponding papers [for a pardon] in accordance with the law. He didn’t do this, but just recently, he wrote such a document to me with a request for a pardon. He’s been in prison for ten years and that is a serious term. He referenced humanitarian grounds. His mother is sick. And I think that a decision can be made and the decree on the pardon will be signed in the nearest time.”
The comments were made off stage just after Putin’s marathon presser. But he did hint at something in his comments on the unlikelihood of a third Yukos case during the conference. “As to ‘the third case,’ I do not want to go into details but honestly speaking I, as a person watching this from the outside, I do not see considerable prospects in this regard.”
Still, Joshua Yaffa tweeted it best:
This is how the Putin cult works: joke and banter for hours, then break hugest news of all in faux offhand way and make everyone scramble.
— Joshua Yaffa (@yaffaesque) December 19, 2013
Khodorkovsky’s people, however, say their client wrote no such pardon document to Putin.
“He never filed [an appeal for pardon], and we haven’t had any recent information about anyone appealing on his behalf. We don’t have this information, although we’ve received a number of pardon appeals on his behalf of other people over the years,” said Vadim Klyuvgant, a lawyer for Khodorkovsky to RIA Novosti.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, reiterated that Khodorkovsky wrote his boss. “Putin recently received a letter written by Khodorkovsky not long ago.”
This is big news regardless the source of Putin’s decision.
And coming on the heels of the amnesty for some of the Bolotnaya participants, the Greenpeace activists, and Pussy Riot, it points to 2014 beginning with a political thaw.
Just in time for Sochi.
More will certainly be revealed in the coming hours and days.
By Sean — 6 years ago
Last weekend’s sudden death of Boris Berezovsky generated a slew of questions. How did he die? Murder, heart failure, or suicide? Why? What’s the significance? It’s increasingly clear that Berezovsky committed suicide thanks to a mixture of financial ruin and depression. But perhaps the strangest mystery was the bomb Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov dropped when asked about the kingmaker’s death.
“Some time ago Berezovsky gave his own letter to Putin where he recognized that he had made many mistakes and begged pardon for his mistakes. Berezovsky also asked Putin for allowing the oligarch to return home.”
We do know that he wanted to return to Russia. He said as much in an “off the record” interview with Forbes Russia the Friday before his death.
F-R: Do you miss Russia?
B: Return to Russia… I want nothing more than to go back to Russia. Even after a criminal case was opened, I wanted to go back to Russia. Even after a criminal case was opened! I only stayed on the advice of Elena Bonner [the late widow of Russian physicist and exile Andrei Sakharov]. The main thing I underestimated was that Russia was too dear to me, that I couldn’t be an immigrant.
I have changed many of my past assessments. Including of myself. My views, as to what’s Russia and what’s the West. I absolutely idealistically imagined the possibility of building a democratic Russia. I idealistically imagined what a democracy in the heart of Europe would be. I underestimated the inertia of Russia and greatly overestimated the West. And this was happening gradually. I changed my view about Russia’s future. I shouldn’t have left Russia.
F-R: If you would have stayed in Russia, you’d be in jail. Is this what you want?
B: Now, looking back at how I spent those years in London…
Berezovsky looked ahead, then put his hand to his chest. His hand was shaking. He turned to me and looked me in the eye for a while. Finally he said:
B: I don’t have the answer to this question. [Mikhail] Khodorkovsky [Russian political prisoner, once the country’s richest man] saved himself.
Berezovsky looked at his feet, then quickly glanced at me and began to speak quickly as if trying to justify himself.
B: This doesn’t mean that I have lost myself. But I’ve lived through a lot more of my own revaluations and disappointments than Khodorkovsky. I lost the meaning.
F-R: Of life?
B: The meaning of life. I don’t want to engage in politics now.
Still, a letter to Putin asking for forgiveness and to return to Russia? No way. Few believed it could be true, including myself. I assumed it was one last dig at Russia’s mortal foe. It was a rare moment when I agreed with Masha Gessen:
Berezovsky would have appreciated Peskov’s apparent bit of fancy: It was a page out of his own playbook. Berezovsky was a master of political intrigue and manipulation. He never lost his taste for it, even when the consequences of a poorly played hand forced him into exile and, eventually, into near-bankruptcy.
Despite my skepticism, I admit I sure hoped Berezovsky’s letter was true. It would be karma coming full circle.
Unsurprisingly, speculation swirled around the purported Berezovsky letter. Russia Today editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan quoted an alleged passage on air, “I made many mistakes. I understand how hard it is for me to ask, but I become unraveled and I implore you [Putin] for forgiveness.” Moskovskii komsomolets editor, Pavel Gusev (who of late is no stranger to scandal), said that he didn’t doubt Berezovsky wrote the it, adding that it was written in the former oligarch’s style.
Reporters badgered Peskov. What was Putin’s reaction? How did Berezovsky send it? Would the Kremlin publish it? The answers were: Don’t know. Through private channels. No, it was personal.
So did Berezovsky fall on his sword before Putin or not? It turns out he did, or at least, so says Katerina Sabirova, a close Berezovsky confidant, in an interview with The New Times.
What do you know about Berezovsky’s letter to Vladimir Putin?
Yes, I came to London in October and he met me at the airport. We went to his home. He told me that he thought that the only way he could return to Russia was to “make a move”–to apologize to Putin. He talked about it like it was his last chance.
For what in particular did he want to apologize to Putin?
He said that he didn’t see another way except to go to [Putin] on all fours. I think that it was Boris’ and his [ex-]wife’s idea. He discussed it with her for a long time on the telephone. They talked about it for hours. I was never present at their conversations. Boris left and I understood that they talked about the possibility of such a letter. He didn’t conceal that they talked about this letter. I didn’t believe that this letter would help. He said that it was all the same to him and he would see it as necessary to return [to Russia]. Elena [Berezovsky’s ex-girlfriend] convinced him to go back and make peace (with Putin.) Even his mother, Anna Aleksandrovna. I heard her say, “Borya, maybe you can make peace?”
Was there a letter?
Yes, I saw the handwritten text. He read it to me. He asked forgiveness and asked about the possibility of returning. It was such a whipping. He asked me what I thought about the letter. I said that they will publish it and you will look bad. And that it won’t help. He responded that it was all the same to him, that everyone will hang every last sin on him, and that this was his only chance.
So there you have it. And keep in mind, this isn’t coming from the Kremlin. But from one of the most liberal, anti-Putin publications in Russia.