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The Rasputin of post-Soviet Russia

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The Rasputin of post-Soviet Russia


From car salesman to Kremlin king-maker, to billionaire political exile, Boris Berezovsky’s death has been described as the end of an era.

He seemed to play a key role in nearly every crucial scene in the rollercoaster drama of post-Soviet Russia.

Berezovsky is widely credited in part for saving Boris Yeltsin’s political skin thanks to support from his media interests.

Like Russia’s other oligarchs, he amassed his fortune from the privatisation of state enterprises.

Rewarded with a seat on Yeltsin’s national Security Council, he helped implement the peace deal that ended Russia’s first war with rebels in the Chechnya region and was a go-between in talks to free hostages there.

The Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov later compared Berezovsky to Rasputin, the wild-eyed monk and mystic who wielded influence over the family of the last Russian tsar, Nicholas II.

Many say he also played a key role in plucking Vladimir Putin out of obscurity and orchestrating the appointment of the former KGB officer as acting president in 1999.

But within a year, things began to fall apart. The once close allies became fierce critics of each other which led to Berezovsky’s to seek political asylum in London.

He survived several assassination attempts and traded accusations with the Kremlin over killings such as the polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.

But in 2012 his fortune took a turn for the worst in Britain’s court when he lost a five billion euro legal battle with Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, a former protege he accused of bullying him into selling assets cheaply.

Some say it triggered a deep depression and on the eve of his death, Forbes magazine published an interview on its Russian language website in which he allegedly said he was tired of his emigre life and desperately wanted to return home to Russia.

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