“Up until today, I did not plan to open Facebook, did not want to live in social networks. Yesterday, on Forgiveness Sunday, I decided to repent… Unrighteous deeds I committed consciously and even more, not knowing what I was doing… I know that many of my actions are condemned by you, the people of Russia…Bit of a sorrowfully unapologetic stilletto in the ribs of Russia’s President there, methinks.
I repent and ask for forgiveness for greed. I longed for riches, not thinking that this is to the detriment of others… I forgot about fellow citizens… I'm sorry. I repent and ask for forgiveness for I trampled free speech… I determined the policy of the Central Office of Information and neglected democratic values. My actions have begun the destruction of independent journalism… I'm sorry…
I repent and ask for forgiveness for what led to the power of Vladimir Putin.”
On 6 April 2013, The Daily Mail published an article drawn from the book, ‘Fragile Empire’ by Ben Judah. In this, the author quotes from a similarly repentant interview the Oligarch granted him shortly before his death. Berezovsky says:
“We didn’t think about others, about those who were not ready for the transition, or who couldn’t make it at all. We didn’t recognise at the time how dangerous it was to split society, how much jealousy and violence that would engender… Those left behind were not as sophisticated or as creative as us… but they were not bad…In the article, Ben Judah says this of Berezovsky‘s courtroom tussle with Roman Abramovich and its aftermath:
We, the class that was more advanced in feelings, creativity and understanding of the future, did not take responsibility. We just focused on making more and more money.”
“Last August, Berezovsky lost his legal battle and received a damning character assessment from the judge in the process. He cut himself off and changed his number. Bankruptcy loomed. He had a stint at the Priory clinic and was prescribed antidepressants. Paintings were put up for sale. Buried in debt, he was asking friends for £3,300 ($5,000) to ‘fly somewhere’.”Interesting, perhaps, that Berezovsky should begin feeling guilty about his behaviours at a time when he saw defeat in the courts and bankruptcy looming. The man whom ‘Forbes Magazine’ once described as the head of the Russian Mafia wasn’t always so penintent.
Ben Judah continues:
“It was Davos, 1996... The new year had dawned, the global economy was shaping up well, and the world’s powerbrokers were convening for their annual Swiss get-together…
Almost alone among the jostling throng of ministers and moguls, the Russian delegation was in a state of near hysteria. Boris Yeltsin, President of Russia and the man who presided over the Wild-West capitalism sweeping that vast land, was heading for defeat, a catastrophe for the alliance of gangster tycoons and corrupt politicians now huddled in their hotel suites. If Yeltsin lost they, too, could lose everything. If communists returned to power through the ballot box, their fortunes would be confiscated.
And their response was drastic: they would stop at nothing, they said, to save Yeltsin and the 1996 election. The youngest of these new oligarchs, as they were becoming known, was Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a banker on the make.
Also present was the media mogul Vladimir Gusinsky. But the biggest of the ‘big three’ was a tubby mathematics professor, a personal friend to Yeltsin called Boris Berezovsky, and it was he who hatched the ‘Davos Pact’.
Together, they fixed the election, harnessing the power of broadcasters and the government bureaucracy to campaign for their drunken president.
As Berezovsky later put it, ‘we raped the media’. And in return, they secured the bargain of the century, carving out hunks of Russia’s extraordinary natural wealth for their own personal use…
As Davos 1996 convened, the new Russian democracy was falling to bits. Gunfire could be heard from the Kremlin at night. Hospitals were running out of medicine. State support for schools, fire services and much else collapsed. Poverty swallowed up 40 per cent of the population…
It was certain that Boris Yeltsin, a survivor of five heart attacks in power, would lose the election. The proud Soviet-built army had been routed by rag-tag Chechen rebels. His popularity rating hovered around three per cent.
So when, at Davos, the Western leaders started cosying up to the chubby-cheeked leader of the rebranded Communist party, Gennady Zyuganov, it seemed nothing would stop him taking up residence in the Kremlin. It was a defining moment, as Vladimir Gusinsky remembered: ‘If it had not been for Boris Berezovsky, somebody else would have been president of Russia’…
If the West was not going to save Yeltsin, then the oligarchs would. The tycoons barred positive coverage of Zyuganov from their channels. Then they bankrolled a TV blitz and imported an American-style campaign into a country that had never known one.
The propaganda was demonic, warning of civil war and the Bolshevik menace. One million stickers were plastered over shop windows with the warning: ‘Buy Food – it could be your last chance.’The TV mogul Vladimir Gusinsky received government loans from the state monopoly Gazprom worth more than £1.6 billion ($2.5 billion)...
On election night, statistically improbable votes poured in. They were so outlandish, exact round numbers, more Yeltsin supporters than official population data – they seemed to point to fraud. The ‘old man’ won.
But the tycoons had not done this for charity. Yeltsin had promised ‘oil for loyalty’. Some 60 per cent of the state’s industrial assets were handed to the oligarchs against parliament’s resistance, including the gigantic Siberian oil, mining and mineral complexes at the heart of the Russian economy.
For a mere £194 million ($300 million), Mikhail Khodorkovsky secured oil reserves greater than those of Norway...Roman Abramovich’s relationship with Boris Berezovsky in the Nineties was crucial to his business success and links to the Kremlin… The two became partners in the lucrative Sibneft oil company deal and Berezovsky introduced him to the Yeltsin family.
Berezovsky gained control of numerous assets, including Russia’s main television channel, and a fortune of some £1.9 billion.
Berezovsky could boast that he and six oligarchs ‘controlled 50 per cent of Russian GDP’…
As the rest of the country suffered, these robber barons were living out fantasies. They seemed incapable of resisting greed. They built Bond-villain retreats for themselves, and restored crumbling tsarist mansions into exquisite company clubs. They filled their world with Napoleonic furnishings, French champagne fountains, Picasso originals and achingly beautiful Siberian blondes.
They hired armies of bodyguards, including former KGB generals and military commanders, and they needed them. Berezovsky made a speciality of cheating death. Once, a remote-controlled bomb ripped through his Mercedes. His driver was decapitated and his body-guard lost an eye. Windows on the other side of the street shattered, but Berezovsky was only shaken.
On the eve of the Millennium, a shaking Boris Yeltsin addressed the nation. In the ten years he had been president, more than 150,000 people had been murdered. His squinting eyes clogged by tears, Yeltsin begged Russia ‘for forgiveness… as many of our dreams did not come to pass’. Then he resigned.
Putin romped through the following year’s election as Berezovsky threw his money into building him a political party. But he was slipping into almost Roman delusions of grandeur. He felt he could achieve anything.
‘It is acceptable,’ he crowed, ‘indeed necessary, to interfere directly in the political process’…
Yet Berezovsky was already doomed. In the weeks after the inauguration, the new president snarled over the radio: ‘There will be no oligarchs or the like as a class’…
After a row with Putin, causing the president to storm out of the room, a horrified Berezovsky blurted out: ‘I think we have made a mistake… We have let the black colonels in.’ Six weeks later, Berezovsky fled the country. Gusinsky had already bolted. Khodorkovsky stayed, challenged Putin and was in 2003 thrown into a prison colony on the Chinese border. Ever since, Khodorkovsky has written rambling letters denouncing his ‘sinful’ past.
Berezovsky set himself up in Mayfair, fantasising about returning to Moscow. He began playing the part of a dissident exile and claimed he was fomenting a revolution. But his English life was a miserable final chapter. Berezovsky longed for acceptance, fumbling for a key to the British Establishment. He squandered millions in lawsuits and gave almost as much away, including £320,000 to support Prince Michael of Kent (whose resemblance to the murdered Tzar Nicholas II, his great-uncle, makes him an intriguing figure in Russia).
In his final months, Berezovsky sounded ridiculous, calling for Prince Harry to be enthroned as Russia’s tsar. In one final gamble, he challenged his former business colleague Roman Abramovich, claiming that the owner of Chelsea FC had ‘stolen’ the oil company Sibneft…
He soon became more successful than his mentor, and more trusted in the Kremlin. It is claimed he personally vetted Putin’s first ministerial team. Abramovich proved his loyalty by becoming governor of Russia’s poorest region Chukotka, close to Alaska, where he substantially boosted the economy and is still chairman of the parliament.Ben Judah tells us that the ‘Davos Pact… led to the plunder of Russia’s vast resources, and personal enrichment on a fabulous scale.’
Abramovich and Berezovsky went head-to-head in court last year when the older tycoon claimed a £3billion chunk of his protege’s fortune in a London court, and lost…
At its height, Berezovsky’s personal fortune was extraordinary. But for millions of ordinary Russians who scraped by, lost their bearings and then their savings, such riches could not be described as business. They were theft.”
He also tells us that the Oligarchs, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Vladimir Gusinsky and Boris Berezovsky, whom he describes as an ‘alliance of gangster tycoons and corrupt politicians’ devised the pact.
Khodorkovsky, Gusinsky and Berezovsky are all Jewish. As is, Roman Abramovich, the only other Oligarch mentioned in Judah’s Daily Mail article.
Ben Judah is, himself, Jewish.
More on Berezovsky here...