The death of Boris Berezovsky has made headlines across Russia as the fallen Kremlin kingmaker was branded the “evil genius” at the lucrative centre of post-Soviet Russia’s runaway corruption and violent politics.
The billionaire, who fled to London in 2000 after clashing with Vladimir Putin, was described as “the most odious oligarch of the 1990s” by state-owned news agency RIA Novosti.
Granted political asylum, Berezovsky repeatedly called for Putin’s overthrow and became a latter-day Trotsky figure for the Russian authorities.
Russia’s most widely watched television station, state-controlled Channel One, followed a bulletin about his death with a summary of the crimes he is accused of committing, including the siphoning of millions of dollars from national airline Aeroflot.
Channel One also branded Berezovsky an “evil genius,” and a report on his demise quoted a senior member of the ruling United Russia, Vyacheslav Nikonov, saying he found it hard to believe the news was true.
“His mind was so diabolical that I can’t imagine how such a person could simply depart life,” said Nikonov.
Berezovsky made a host of political enemies during his career, and even after his passing many were not able to hide their contempt.
“He lived life in vain and ended up without family, without homeland, without money and without friends,” said Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov. “[It was] an absolutely appropriate finale.”
Berezovsky was one of the architect’s of Zyuganov’s defeat at the hands of Boris Yeltsin in the 1996 presidential election.
The former mayor of Moscow, Yury Luzhkov, another longstanding political opponent of Berezovsky, told liberal television station Dozhd that his death was a result of two factors. “The first was total political defeat and the second was, probably, financial ruin … [It was the] denouement of a personal catastrophe.”
Hours after Berezovsky’s death, Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said on television that the exiled businessman had written to the president asking his forgiveness, and seeking to end his exile.
Some cast doubt on the likelihood of an appeal to Putin, whose rise to power Berezovsky had assisted before the two men fell out. But Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the nationalist Liberal Democrat party, said he had suggested starting a campaign designed to help Berezovsky return to Russia when the two men met “by chance” in January at a hotel near the Red Sea.
“He responded very eagerly … he was prepared to return to Russia under any conditions,” Zhirinovksy told liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy.
“He was an unambiguous opponent of Putin but, unfortunately, not just a political opponent,” Peskov told Dozhd television channel on Sunday.
Berezovsky’s fragile mental state and homesickness during his last days were revealed in an interview he gave to Ilya Zhegulyov, a Russian journalist from Forbes, on the day before his death where he said he “didn’t want anything more than a return to Russia”.
Some associates said that a personal appeal to Putin would not have been inconsistent with Berezovsky’s character or style.
“I don’t know for certain, but it could have happened,” said Aleksei Venediktov, the editor of Ekho Moskvy and a friend and colleague of Berezovsky.
“After losing in court to Roman Abramovich he was in a serious depression. He was undergoing treatment.”
However, some friends of Berezovsky in the UK were sceptical about the extent of his homesickness and expressed doubts over the authenticity of the Forbes interview.
Peskov said the Kremlin would not be opposed to considering a request for Berezovsky’s funeral to take place in Moscow.
Boris Berezovsky was an ‘evil genius’, says Russia’s state-owned media – The Guardian
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