Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky has been found dead
March 23, 2013 2:29 PM   Subscribe

Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky has been found dead

One of the first Russian oligarchs and once one of the richest, was found dead in his home today. It is suspected that he may have committed suicide after losing much of his fortune following a drawn-out lawsuit which he ultimately lost against former protege Roman Abramovich over the sale in shares of oil company Sibneft and other assets.

Berezovsky helped to orchestrate Vladimir Putin's rise to power before a falling out, which turned him into a lifelong and very vocal critic of the Russian president.

Berezkovsky was also close to former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, who died in London from a mysterious poisoning in 2006 (later determined to be polonium) (previously). Both men has been granted exile in Britain and were very vocal critics of Putin. Berezovsky had been paying Litvinenko's legal costs up until very recently. Litvinenko (and his widow) accused Putin of poisoning him before he died. The Russian media pointed fingers at Berezovsky. Litvinenko's father has also recently accused Berezovsky of being behind the poisoning.

Ten things to know about Boris Berezovsky.
posted by triggerfinger (49 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
committed suicide

Fell over backwards onto some polonium.
posted by Artw at 2:33 PM on March 23, 2013 [24 favorites]


I really wish Hitch were still alive. You know that he'd have something amazing to say about this.
posted by Fizz at 2:49 PM on March 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Note to self: If you really must become an oligarch, don't piss off the ruling caste and then seek asylum in a country that's crawling with the aforementioned ruling caste's agents.
posted by anewnadir at 3:07 PM on March 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Putin really isn't your regular crazy-ass dictator. He's invented a new form of governing, rule by fear of assassination. No one can actually prove he's behind all these deaths (and it's entirely possible that this was just a suicide, given the circumstances), but everyone believes he was behind them, and that is the source of his power.

That KGB training wasn't for nothing, apparently.
posted by gkhan at 3:09 PM on March 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


He's invented a new form of governing, rule by fear of assassination.

Oh yeah, nobody anywhere ever in history has ever come up with something like that. Totally new thing, totally his invention.
posted by indubitable at 3:14 PM on March 23, 2013 [23 favorites]


Oh yeah, nobody anywhere ever in history has ever come up with something like that. Totally new thing, totally his invention.

I think the implication was that you don't -actually- need to assassinate people if everybody thinks you're doing it; you just sponge off whoever is. Which is a bit different from rule by assassination.

Still not terribly original, though.
posted by solarion at 3:16 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


A British High Court Judge recently described him as an "inherently unreliable witness", who was "deliberately dishonest" and viewed truth as a "transitory, flexible concept".
posted by adamvasco at 3:18 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am not entirely sure that not assaninating people is what is going on here.

Also Britains policy of being a tax haven for rich people from crazy countries seems like it has some embarrassing downsides.
posted by Artw at 3:19 PM on March 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


He's invented a new form of governing

Living your life as Victor Von Doom isn't exactly new.
posted by The Whelk at 3:24 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


This probably has no relevance to anything but I kind of wonder if Berezovsky had any money in the Cyprus banks and if he stood to lose anything there.
posted by triggerfinger at 3:27 PM on March 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Living your life as Victor Von Doom isn't exactly new.

At least Putin isn't so cliche that he regularly dons a cape and a hideous metal mask. His liberal use of death rays is pretty passe, though.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:34 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, nobody anywhere ever in history has ever come up with something like that. Totally new thing, totally his invention.

It's true, that was a bit silly of me to imply it's a new thing. But there is a difference here between Putin and the old-school of ruling by fear. Because media today is so globally interconnected, any story of a death of an oligarch or a critic of the regime is going to spread world-wide, instantly. Putin barely has to do anything, and it will have the same effect as a total regime of terror used to have.
posted by gkhan at 3:37 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not only is Putin not the first leader to use the church as a political bludgeon of the state and rule by assassination: he's not even the first Russian to do it. It was basically Ivan IV's MO against the boyars.
posted by absalom at 3:38 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's a little history of Russian oligarchs and Cypriot tax havens.

Here is an FT piece from February 6th: Russian money streams through Cyprus:

Estimates of the size of Russia’s deposits in Cyprus range from €8bn, according to some experts, to up to €35bn, according to a German intelligence report cited in Der Spiegel magazine.
posted by triggerfinger at 3:39 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Victor Von Doom never punched an asteroid out of the sky.
posted by Artw at 3:43 PM on March 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


By the by, the inquiry into Litvinenko's death was due to open on 1 May, but has already been put back. One witness less, I guess.
posted by Jehan at 3:44 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]




Vanity Fair, Nov. 2012 - Roman Abramovich vs. Boris Berezovsky: The bitter oligarch feud exposing Russia's corruption.

Also, a Forbes Russia journalist is claiming he spoke to Berezovsky hours before his death, and that he apparently said that life wasn't worth living anymore.
posted by triggerfinger at 3:56 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Victor Von Doom never punched an asteroid out of the sky.

I'm pretty sure George Washington did, though, so it still wouldn't be original.

Although how smart it is to taunt Putin for unoriginal villainy, I'm not sure....
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:04 PM on March 23, 2013


I really wish Hitch were still alive. You know that he'd have something amazing to say about this.

I really wish Alfred Hitchcock were still alive. You know that he'd make an amazing movie about this.
posted by tommyD at 4:46 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


In UK, oli garchs you.
posted by chavenet at 4:54 PM on March 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


triggerfinger: "Conspiracy theories surrounding Boris Berezovsky's death."

According to them, it was a heart attack that killed Berezovsky.


Worst. Conspiracy. Evar.
posted by chavenet at 4:55 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


They kept bringing him pastries. It's a sweet revenge kind of thing.
posted by maryr at 5:14 PM on March 23, 2013


gkhan: " He's invented a new form of governing"

"Do you believe in angels, Mister Berezovsky?"
posted by boo_radley at 5:24 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


hmmm.... what's your quote referencing, boo_radley?
posted by Bwithh at 7:03 PM on March 23, 2013


Every time I think that the world lacks the weird and interesting bits that it had about a hundred years ago, I think about Russia. And then I say, "Holy shit." For an American that grew up well after the Cold War was over, it's the new le continent noir. What I know about Russian politics could fill about half a page of 12 pt. text, but even that little bit is fascinating.
posted by WidgetAlley at 7:12 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, Bwithh, boo_radley is using a key quote from Terry Pratchett's Going Postal, said by the Patrician, the very clever and questionably sinister ruler of the city.
posted by WidgetAlley at 7:14 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Gerard Depardieu seen fleeing from scene.
posted by benzenedream at 7:18 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll spare a . for the old pirate.

I met him only once. Surrounded by imposing bodyguards and accompanied by a much-younger, dark-haired, lady that everyone politely called Mrs Berezovsky (linguistically and, I gather, factually inaccurate), he looked every inch the master of a baroque organised crime syndicate.

But, in person, he was quite the opposite of what one might expect. A small, rather scruffy man he radiated a kind of indignant energy. One gets a sense for the power of a person by how they get their message across, and Berazovsky seemed to be downing in a pool of irrelevance. He was desperate to tell us about the crimes of Putin, desperate to impress upon us how he had placed Yeltsin in power, desperate to convince us that he would lead Russia again.

For all his wealth, he could not buy the thing that he most wanted: redemption of his exile, influence among his people, power over the Kremlin. Even at the apex of wealth and luxury, his vaulting ambition made him a defeated man. Small, balding and agitated, he reminded me of Napoleon on Saint Helena.

I never cease to be amazed at the human strangeness at the core of great events, at the fragility and pettiness of towering personalities. So yes, a . for that little man I met once. For all his crimes, a human being just like me.
posted by Dreadnought at 7:20 PM on March 23, 2013 [21 favorites]


Let's not forget that while Putin is indeed, probably a completely corrupt and cold-blooded Czar figure, Berezovsky was no innocent human rights activist abroad.

I thought that Boris was suspected in the hit on the Forbes reporter who wrote an article and then a book detailing his rise in Russia in the 90s, he was viewed then as a gangster boss who regularly made threats in the process of accumulating assets, was connected to the Chechen mafia, and was a generally unsavoury guy.

These days, there are some amazing suspicious deaths happening with regularity in Britain, connected to Russia. Its feeling like an Eric Ambler novel about Europe from the 30s.

This one, oddly, may actually be suicide based on what I've read.
posted by C.A.S. at 7:35 PM on March 23, 2013


For the record, I wouldn't be looking to Hitchens for insight on this. Didn't know shit about Russia, really, and believed in Ahmed Chalabi, the huckster who sold the neo-cons our Iraq war, enough to have him to his apartment in DC to pimp around his agenda.

There are many actual Russia experts to go to.
posted by C.A.S. at 7:38 PM on March 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


For the record, I wouldn't be looking to Hitchens for insight on this.

Although there will certainly be better informed experts in the days to come who will offer their views on Berezovsky, I'm waiting for Taibbi to weigh in and offer tales from his years at The eXile.
posted by Auden at 7:44 PM on March 23, 2013


Catch the latest Bugle for a wonderfully funny take on Russia and Cyprus.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:11 PM on March 23, 2013


There are many actual Russia experts to go to.

Could you link to some? I would be very interested.
posted by triggerfinger at 8:54 PM on March 23, 2013


Telegraph obit

Guardian backgrounder
posted by Bwithh at 9:29 PM on March 23, 2013


I think the implication was that you don't -actually- need to assassinate people if everybody thinks you're doing it; you just sponge off whoever is. Which is a bit different from rule by assassination.

Not all of the assassinations attributed to the 11th century Nizari Ismailis, after whom the word 'assassin' came about, were actually done by them. They did sponge off, as you put it, other people's work as well, in order to enhance their reputation, and for others to kill people without actually getting the blame.
posted by the cydonian at 9:30 PM on March 23, 2013


Here is the interesting but VERY LONG judgement in Berezovsky vs. Abramovich from the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII).
posted by triggerfinger at 10:26 PM on March 23, 2013


A shame the Western media uses "oligarch" only when describing the very rich in Russia.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:06 AM on March 24, 2013 [20 favorites]


The author of this article and book was later killed in Moscow.


http://www.forbes.com/forbes/1996/1230/5815090a_print.html



http://www.amazon.com/Godfather-Kremlin-Decline-Gangster-Capitalism/dp/0156013304



http://www.forbes.com/2009/07/07/paul-klebnikov-murder-opinions-klebnikov_land.html


posted by C.A.S. at 3:48 AM on March 24, 2013


dunkadunc: Ooh, that's the best. idea. ever. If the Republicans can get folks to start using the godawful newspeak 'job-creator' for business owner, we should start using 'oligarch' for folks with net worth +10MM.

Oligarch Michael Bloomberg funds massive media blitz to change gun control laws.

Oligarch Jeff Bezos continues construction on his 10,000 year clock.

Oligarch Jamie Dimon begins testimony before Senate Finance Committee, all of whom have received in excess of $1,000,000 in campaign contributions from JP Morgan Chase or affiliated entities
posted by percor at 7:19 AM on March 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Not to mention the various mining magnates in Australia.
posted by acb at 7:35 AM on March 24, 2013


Christopher Walker from The Times (London) was just on AJE saying it was fair to assume this guy would "get got" eventually. Strange to hear that phrase from a pudgy Brit when I associate it exclusively with The Wire.
posted by seemoreglass at 8:28 AM on March 24, 2013


Here in the UK, this is the context....

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/17/russian-killers-on-streets-of-britain


posted by C.A.S. at 9:11 AM on March 24, 2013


Oligarch adamvasco has a nice sort of ring to it. *Sighs*.
posted by adamvasco at 9:21 AM on March 24, 2013


Although I don't doubt that Russian politics is a deadly game, it seems like this may very well have been a suicide. Although Eastern Promises style intrigue is certainly more fun to imagine. Someone get Viggo Mortensen in to a sauna to investigate.
posted by codacorolla at 9:32 AM on March 24, 2013


Was just looking back over the coverage of the Berezovsky v Abramovich litigation, and found this article on the money being made in London off the back of oligarch grudge matches.
Barristers are looking to break into the lucrative world of Russian litigation because parties are so firmly opposed and are cash rich. Brief fees for Russian cases are on the rise on the back of speculation about how much Jonathan Sumption QC, also of Brick Court, secured for his work for Abramovich. Sumption, who earlier this month was sworn into the Supreme Court, is widely thought to have secured a fee upwards of £3m.

One lawyer said: “The huge fees are partly because of the Sumption effect, but also because barristers know the Russians will pay and these cases are huge.”
Stay classy, Britain.
posted by bright cold day at 3:14 PM on March 24, 2013


It's looking like the FBI has detained Abramovich in the US, I wonder if it's in connection to Berezovsky's sudden death.
posted by vuron at 6:51 AM on March 25, 2013


Spokesperson denies Abramovich has been detained in NYC.

Also: What Berezovsky's death means for Roman Abramovich
posted by triggerfinger at 7:58 AM on March 25, 2013


A shame the Western media uses "oligarch" only when describing the very rich in Russia.

He will heretofore always and forever be Oligarch Mitt Romney to me.
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:21 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


« Older The Thames is a Filthy Beast   |   Ricky Gervais In His Bath Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments