BORIS BEREZOVSKY VERSUS THE KREMLIN

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Denis Shevchenko Rossiya, July 10, 2001, p. 5

Has Boris Berezovsky retained influence over political processes in Russia? Has he the resources enabling him to jeopardize the whole state system? Mikhail Delyagin of the Globalization Institute considers that Berezovsky has been gathering resources for a war on the Kremlin Administration

“Boris Berezovsky versus Russia” – this is a topic the media has been speculating on for over a year already, and it remains relevan. Hence a question: has Berezovsky retained influence over political processes in Russia? Has he the resources enabling him to jeopardize the whole state system? Mikhail Delyagin of the Globalization Institute considers that Berezovsky has been gathering resources for a war on the Kremlin administration. If he really is, and if the war is inevitable, it will not hurt to try analyzing Berezovsky’s resources and resources of Vladimir Putin’s team.

The notorious tycoon and former Duma deputy lost a lot of resources in the last two years. His colossal media empire dwindled to Kommersant Publishing, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, and the TV-6 network. Financial flows are not what they used to be, but still they are comparable to the budget of some small state. Berezovsky’s proteges have lost almost all their former positions of influence. At least the Kremlin officials traditionally associated with Berezovsky (men like Vladimir Rushailo, Nikolai Aksenenko, Alexander Voloshin, and others) would dearly like to shed the label of “Berezovsky’s protege”. What counts, however, is that Berezovsky does not have support of the masses – unlike the Kremlin. It means that he is forced to wait for Putin’s team to make mistakes, and for a change in the public mood.

The chances of mistakes on the Kremlin’s part are considerable right now. Firstly, the drawn-out second war in Chechnya. Death certificates are still being received by mothers of soldiers, huge sums are channelled into restoration of constitutional order in the restive republic, and terrorists are still active. Several months more – and society may voice its disillusionment openly. Secondly, the situation around the Kursk submarine. If the salvage operation is not a success, for any reason, Putin will be reminded of everything – his vacation in Sochi when the disaster took place, and his promises to relatives of the crew. Thirdly, the consequences of Herman Gref’s reforms – including higher costs of housing and utilities, and inflation. Kasianov, Gref, and Putin will not be forgiven another ruble devaluation. Fourthly, the Kremlin’s attack on free speech has already resulted in weak but real opposition among the intelligentsia – and disillusionment in the West.

And what about Berezovsky? He will play the catalyst, magnifying and channelling public opinion wherever he needs it directed. Criticism of the authorities is simple when one has the media and PR techniques. As rumor has it, Berezovsky is now looking for a new public leader. Dismissal of the editor-in-chief of Nezavisimaya Gazeta is revealing, according to Delyagin. Nezavisimaya Gazeta is being transformed into an instrument which will be used in a short informational battle this autumn. Activization of the Prosecutor General’s Office in the Aeroflot case is probably the regime’s response to the oligarch’s move. The arrest warrant for Badri Patarkatsishvili undermined Boris Berezovsky’s positions in Moscow.

P.S.

In late June, Patarkatsishvili was charged with organizing the escape attempt of Nikolai Glushkov, former deputy general director of Aeroflot. The Prosecutor General’s Office issued charges against Patarkatsishvili when he failed to turn up for questioning several times in a row. He was to be taken into custody, but the plan failed because Patarkatsishvili was abroad. According to widespread opinion, Patarkatsishvili spent some time with his relatives in Georgia and then flew to Turkey. The Prosecutor General’s Office put his name on the list of wanted persons. Investigators will now have to prove validity of charges to their Western counterparts.

Observers consider that it will be difficult, particularly after the appearance in Kommersant of a lengthy interview with Patarkatsishvili, where he presented his own side of the story. Patarkatsishvili said that it was a case of political harassment. “Glushkov’s so-called escape attempt is a typical provocation staged by the Federal Security Service,” Patarkatsishvili said. He considers that his patron Berezovsky is the target.

Essentially, Patarkatsishvili blamed Putin and the presidential circle first and foremost, including Sergei Ivanov and Voloshin. He said that negotiations with the latter two had been organized. Berezovsky was told to sell all his media assets in return for Glushkov’s freedom. Berezovsky completed his part of the bargain; Voloshin did not.

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