In a sign that the Russian authorities may soon issue an international warrant for the arrest of Boris Berezovsky, the Prosecutor General’s Office has reportedly ordered the Federal Security Service (FSB) to supply it with evidence that the tycoon and his long-time associate, Badri Patarkatsishvili, violated Part One of Article 208 of Russia’s Criminal Code, which bans creating and leading “illegal armed formations.” Last week FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev announced that his agency had documentary proof that Berezovsky had funded Chechen rebels, after which Berezovsky and Patarkatsishvili were formally charged with violating Article 208. Berezovsky has already been accused of fraud for his alleged role in embezzling funds from Aeroflot, Russia’s state airline, but the Russian authorities have so far stopped short of putting out a warrant for his arrest through Interpol, the international police agency, which would be the first step toward extraditing the tycoon back to Russia (see the Monitor, January 25, 30). Berezovsky went into self-imposed exile in 2000 after falling out with President Vladimir Putin, whom he accused of authoritarianism.
Responding to the latest turn of events, Berezovsky, who has offices in London and reportedly also has a residence in southern France, told the Gazeta newspaper that he was certain the Russian authorities had “no chance” of winning his extradition should they try. The once-powerful oligarch dismissed the new charges against him concerning his alleged financing of the Chechen rebels, saying simply: “The KGB mafia didn’t die, it continues to live. They are demonstrating this to the whole world.” Berezovsky denied that he had financed the Chechen rebels, but confirmed that he had officially handed over US$2 million for the reconstruction of a cement factory to the Chechen rebel field commander Shamil Basaev in 1997, when Basaev was Chechnya’s acting prime minister. Berezovsky, who was deputy secretary of the Kremlin’s Security Council from October 1996 to November 1997, said his contribution was part ofa larger contribution made by Russian businessmen “who understood the need for the economic reconstruction of Chechnya” and that the responsibility for controlling how those funds were actually spent had belonged to Russia’s special services.
Berezovsky repeated his claim that the new charges against him were a “nervous reaction by the Russian law enforcement organs” to his claim that the Russian special services organized the autumn 1999 bombings of apartment buildings in Moscow and Volgodonsk. Those explosions, which killed hundreds of people and were blamed on Chechen terrorists, were one of the pretexts for Russian military intervention in Chechnya. But while Berezovsky had earlier said that he would make documentary evidence of his claim public by the end of February, this time he told Gazeta he is the “producer” of a film currently being made by unnamed “foreign journalists,” which will prove his allegations. “I will offer this film to all television companies, including in Russia,” Berezovsky said. “And I can tell you now definitively that there is interest in it from Western companies” (GZT.ru, NTV.ru, Interfax, January 31).
NOW IT’S OFFICIAL: MOSCOW WANTS TO KEEP ITS TROOPS IN MOLDOVA.