Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 75

The plot thickened in at least one of Russia’s current domestic political scandals yesterday when financier Boris Berezovsky returned to Moscow to face money-laundering and corruption charges. Berezovsky arrived at Moscow’s Sheremetevo airport near Moscow from Nice, France. He had been expected a day earlier.

In what may have been a jibe at his main political protagonist, Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, Berezovsky attributed his one-day delay to extreme back pain which, he said, made traveling difficult. Primakov has been incapacitated recently by back problems of his own. Those problems have coincided with what many observers believe to be a painful slippage of the premier’s political influence vis-a-vis President Boris Yeltsin, with whom Berezovsky has long had close ties.

Berezovsky is wanted for questioning in connection with the illegal transfer of some US$250 million from Russia’s largest airline–Aeroflot–to a Swiss company. Berezovsky has denied the charges and described them as politically motivated. He agreed to return to Russia last week after the Prosecutor General’s Office canceled the warrant for his arrest (see the Monitor, April 15). He had originally been charged on April 6.

Berezovsky told reporters upon arriving in Moscow that he had “never violated a law” and that he had “returned to Moscow in a completely calm fashion.” He accused Primakov of “trying to politicize” the case against him, but added that the Russian prime minister is “not so petty as to avenge himself on me” (Russian agencies, April 17-18; AP, UPI, April 18; International Herald Tribune, April 19). Berezovsky had been scheduled to give testimony today to the Prosecutor General’s office. This morning, however, his lawyer called that office to say that Berezovsky would be unable to testify for at least a week because he has been hospitalized for treatment of his back ailment (AP, April 19).