Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 68

Boris Berezovsky, in a press conference in Paris and interviews to numerous Russian media yesterday, attacked Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and vowed to return to Russia next week despite the warrant issued for his arrest. The tycoon, who was recently fired as CIS executive secretary, struck a defiant tone during his press conference, declaring: “I am not afraid of being arrested either in the streets of Paris or the streets of Moscow and in the very near future I will get ready to go to Moscow.” He also said, however, that if the Russian authorities wanted to arrest him, they could come get him in Paris, adding: “I won’t walk into a cell myself.”

The warrant for Berezovsky’s arrest, along with one for fellow oligarch Aleksandr Smolensky, was ordered by the Prosecutor General’s Office. Berezovsky is wanted in connection with illegal business activities and embezzlement at Aeroflot airlines. The tycoon denied the long-time rumor that he, until recently, controlled the airline, saying he never even possessed “one share” of the company (Segodnya, April 8). He charged that the warrant aimed at him was the result of a conspiracy inspired by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF). Berezovsky noted that the official who ordered his arrest, Deputy Prosecutor General Mikhail Katyshev, is close to radical KPRF member Viktor Ilyukhin, who heads the State Duma’s security committee.

Berezovsky also told the media that he “cannot exclude” the possibility that Primakov was behind the actions of the Prosecutor General’s Office. Indeed, during the news conference, Berezovsky charged that Primakov was “on the cutting edge of those forces which have been hiding for ten years, [which] never accepted the reforms and yesterday went on the offensive.” He called Primakov worse than the communists, saying the latter simply want to take Russia “backward,” while the prime minister wants to build an “empire” based on “force,” not intellect (Russian agencies, April 8). He also said that Primakov “embodies” the “remains of the Soviet special services” which are fighting for influence over the Russian special services, the president and the media, and even resorting to “threats to journalists, direct [phone] calls with threats” (Kommersant daily, April 8). Berezovsky also attacked Primakov for not having condemned the anti-Semitism of the KPRF and, specifically, KPRF radical Albert Makashov (Russian agencies, Kommersant daily, April 8). In yet another interview, Berezovsky claimed that Primakov’s power base was the “worst of the worst” among Russia’s special services (Segodnya, April 8).

Igor Shchegolev, who heads the government’s information department, yesterday characterized Berezovsky’s charges that Primakov was behind his arrest warrant as “absurd.”