Anjalisa — 'I am plotting a new Russian revolution'

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‘I am plotting a new Russian revolution’
London exile Berezovsky says force necessary to bring down President
Ian Cobain, Matthew Taylor and Luke Harding in Moscow
Friday April 13, 2007
The Guardian
The Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky has told the Guardian he is
plotting the violent overthrow of President Putin from his base in
Britain after forging close contacts with members of Russia’s ruling
In comments which appear calculated to enrage the Kremlin, and which
will further inflame relations between London and Moscow, the
multimillionaire claimed he was already bankrolling people close to
the president who are conspiring to mount a palace coup.
“We need to use force to change this regime,” he said. “It isn’t
possible to change this regime through democratic means. There can be
no change without force, pressure.” Asked if he was effectively
fomenting a revolution, he said: “You are absolutely correct.”
Although Mr Berezovsky, with an estimated fortune of £850m, may have
the means to finance such a plot, and although he enjoyed enormous
political influence in Russia before being forced into exile, he said
he could not provide details to back up his claims because the
information was too sensitive.
Last night the Kremlin denounced Mr Berezovsky’s comments as a
criminal offence which it believed should undermine his refugee
status in the UK.
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s chief spokesman, said: “In accordance
with our legislation [his remarks are] being treated as a crime. It
will cause some questions from the British authorities to Mr
Berezovsky. We want to believe that official London will never grant
asylum to someone who wants to use force to change the regime in
It will not be the first time the British government has faced
accusations from the Kremlin that it is providing a safe haven for Mr
Berezovsky. When he told a Moscow radio station last year that he
wanted to see Mr Putin overthrown by force, Jack Straw, then foreign
secretary, told the Commons that “advocating the violent overthrow of
a sovereign state is unacceptable” and warned the tycoon he could be
stripped of his refugee status.
Russian authorities subsequently sent an extradition request to
London. That failed, however, when a district judge ruled Mr
Berezovsky could not be extradited as long as he has asylum status.
In an interview with the Guardian, however, Mr Berezovsky goes much
further than before, claiming to be in close contact with members of
Russia’s political elite who, he says, share his view that Mr Putin
is damaging Russia by rolling back democratic reforms, smothering
opposition, centralising power and flouting the country’s
“There is no chance of regime change through democratic elections,”
he says. “If one part of the political elite disagrees with another
part of the political elite – that is the only way in Russia to
change the regime. I try to move that.”
While declining to describe these contacts – and alleging that they
would be murdered if they were identified – he maintained that he was
offering his “experience and ideology” to members of the country’s
political elite, as well as “my understanding of how it could be
done”. He added: “There are also practical steps which I am doing
now, and mostly it is financial.”
Mr Berezovsky said he was unconcerned by any threat to strip him of
his refugee status. “Straw wasn’t in a position to take that
decision. A judge in court said it wasn’t in the jurisdiction of
He added that there was even less chance of such a decision being
taken following the polonium-210 poisoning last November of his
former employee, Alexander Litvinenko. “Today the reality is
different because of the Litvinenko case.”
Mr Berezovsky, 61, a former mathematician, turned to business during
the Yeltsin years and made his fortune by capturing state assets at
knockdown prices during Russia’s rush towards privatisation.
Although he played a key role in ensuring Mr Putin’s victory in the
2000 presidential elections, the two men fell out as the newly
elected leader successfully wrested control of Russia back from the
so-called oligarchy, the small group of tycoons who had come to
dominate the country’s economy.
A few months after the election Mr Berezovsky fled Russia, and
applied successfully for asylum in the UK after Mr Litvinenko, an
officer with the KGB’s successor, the FSB, came forward to say he had
been ordered to murder the tycoon.
Mr Berezovsky changed his name to Platon Elenin, Platon being the
name of a character in a Russian film based loosely upon his life. He
was subsequently given a British passport in this name.
As well as claiming to be financing and encouraging coup plotters in
Moscow, Mr Berezovsky said he had dedicated much of the last six
years to “trying to destroy the positive image of Putin” that many in
the west held, portraying him whenever possible as a dangerously anti-
democratic figure. He said he had also opposed the Russian president
through Kommersant, the influential Russian newspaper which he
controlled until last year.
Last month Mr Berezovsky was questioned by two detectives from the
Russian prosecutor general’s office who were in London to investigate
the death of Mr Litvinenko. He has denied claims that he refused to
answer many of their questions.
Last night the Kremlin said Russian authorities might want to
question him again in the light of his interview with the
Guardian. “I now believe our prosecutor general’s office has got lots
of questions for Mr Berezovsky,” said Mr Peskov. He added: “His words
are very interesting. This is a very sensitive issue.”
The Foreign Office said it had nothing to add to Mr Straw’s comments
of last year.