In the months leading to his death, the former Kremlin kingmaker Boris Berezovsky was engaged in negotiations to return to Moscow, according to senior Russian officials.
President Vladimir Putin‘s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told Russian television that the exiled businessman had written to Putin asking his forgiveness and seeking to end his exile.
Berezovsky left the country after falling out with the president, whom he helped rise to the top of Russian politics during the late 1990s. After settling in London Berezovsky became a latter-day Trotsky and repeatedly called for Putin’s overthrow.
“He was an unambiguous opponent of Putin but, unfortunately, not just a political opponent,” Peskov told Dozhd television channel on Sunday.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the nationalist Liberal Democrat party, which enjoys a cosy relationship with the Kremlin, said he suggested beginning 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 Ekho Moskvy, a liberal radio station.
Ilya Zhegulyov, a Russian journalist with Forbes, said Berezovsky had shown signs of his fragile mental state and homesickness in an interview the day before his death. According Zhegulyo, Berezovsky said he “didn’t want anything more than a return to Russia”.
Associates said 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 Alexei Venediktov, the editor-in-chief 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.”
Ending his exile was something Berezovsky consistently sought, said another journalist and acquaintance, Mikhail Kozyrev. “He always lived in hope that he would return, that there would come a time when he could come back and live here,” he said.
However, friends of Berezovksy in the UK were skeptical about the extent of his homesickness and expressed doubts over the authenticity of the Forbes interview.
Berezovsky made many political enemies during his career, and even after his death some were unable to hide their contempt. “He lived life in vain and ended up without family, without homeland, without money and without friends in an absolutely appropriate finale,” the Communist party leader, Gennady Zyuganov, told reporters. Berezovsky was one of the architects of Zyuganov’s defeat to Boris Yeltsin in the 1996 presidential election.
Berezovsky’s death was the leading story in Russian media at the weekend. The most widely watched television station, the state-controlled Channel One, which once belonged to Berezovsky, followed a bulletin about his death with a summary of his suspected crimes, including siphoning off millions of dollars from the national airline Aeroflot .
RIA-Novosti, the state-owned news agency, described Berezovsky as “the most odious oligarch of the 1990s” in an early report about his death.
Putin’s spokesman said the Kremlin would not be opposed to considering a request for Berezovsky’s funeral to take place in Moscow.
Boris Berezovsky ‘was in talks over return to Russia’ – The Guardian
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