Fresh on the heels of reports that Boris Berezovsky will reportedly escape being charged in the Aeroflot case–which involves accusations that two Swiss firms he created were used to embezzle millions of dollars from Russia’s state airline–come other indications that the erstwhile Kremlin insider is on the path to rehabilitation. Igor Shabdurasulov, a close Berezovsky associate, has confirmed that he will become chairman of TV-6’s board of directors. Shabdurasulov was once a deputy head of the Kremlin administration and a director of Russian Public Television (ORT), the 51-percent state-owned television channel Berezovsky once reportedly controlled. He has said that he will be joined on the board of directors by Berezovsky’s daughter Yekaterina and three representatives from Berezovsky’s LogoVAZ company. Badri Patarkatsishvili, another close Berezovsky associate who is often described as the tycoon’s “right-hand,” presided over a TV-6 board meeting yesterday, during which he announced that Berezovsky now holds 75 percent of TV-6’s shares. Berezovsky was previously said to “control” TV-6, but he now appears to own a controlling stake outright–something he reportedly achieved last month by paying US$30 million to another TV-6 shareholder, the aluminum magnate Lev Chorny (Vedomosti, March 14). Berezovsky has reportedly also bought out Chorny’s stake in Kommersant, thereby taking formal control of that newspaper as well (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, March 6). While Shabdurasulov will formally head the TV6 board of directors, some Russian media speculated today that Patarkatsishvili would hold the real power at the channel, as he reportedly once did on Berezovsky’s behalf at ORT (Polit.ru, March 15).
Earlier this year, Berezovsky reportedly sold his 49-percent stake in ORT to his former ally Roman Abramovich, the oil and metals baron, who in turn has reportedly handed the stake over to the state. Berezovsky’s retreat from ORT, along with his decision to go into exile abroad last year after publicly falling out with President Vladimir Putin, were seen as signs of his eclipse. His acquisition of TV-6 and Kommersant, however, coupled with the reports that he will not be charged in the Aeroflot case, suggest that the threat against him has subsided and that he plans to continue to be a Russian media magnate–and that the Kremlin will allow him to do so (see the Monitor, March 14). Meanwhile, Berezovsky, who was at one time deputy secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States and reportedly used that post to further his business and political interests in other former Soviet republics, may be trying to regain influence in some those states. Patarkatsishvili has reportedly been in close contact with several influential pro-Russian political figures in Georgia, including Vazha Lordkipanidze, Georgia’s former ambassador to Russia. He was also involved in the creation of a new Georgian political party, somewhat strangely named the Georgian Grapevine with Russia, which is headed by the film director Georgy Shengelaya. According to Radio Liberty, Yevgeny Primakov, Russia’s former prime minister and foreign minister, also played a key role in creating this new Georgian party (Radio Liberty, March 7). During his tenure as prime minister, Primakov was Berezovsky’s main enemy, ordering an arrest warrant for the tycoon in connection with the Aeroflot case. The arrest order was later rescinded.
AZERBAIJAN, TURKEY SEAL AGREEMENTS ON SHAH-DENIZ GAS.