Monday, July 02, 2007

Russia charges Berezovsky with coup plot

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian prosecutors have charged emigre tycoon Boris Berezovsky on suspicion of plotting to seize power, his lawyer said on Monday.
The multi-millionaire, who lives in Britain where he has been granted refugee status, said he was confident Britain would never extradite him to Russia.
"He has been charged with conspiring to seize power in a violent coup," Andrei Borovkov, Berezovsky's lawyer told journalists.
The charge was brought by Russia's FSB secret service, said the lawyer, and related to an interview the tycoon gave to the Guardian in which he was quoted as saying force was needed to bring about a change of power in Russia.
The move is likely to aggravate a diplomatic row between Britain and Russia, which has for years been pressing for Berezovsky's extradition to stand trial on corruption charges.
"I am confident that I do not violate not only Russian but British laws as well, therefore I simply cannot be worried that the British authorities may decide to extradite me," Berezovsky told independent Ekho Moskvy radio station.
Berezovsky is also at the centre of a row over the murder in London last year of Russian ex-agent Alexander Litvinenko who died after being poisoned with radioactive polonium.
A spokesman for the FSB, a successor organisation to the Soviet KGB secret service, declined to confirm charges had been brought against the tycoon.
Berezovsky accuses the Kremlin of killing Litvinenko, an associate. Russian officials dismiss the allegation as nonsense and complain Berezovsky is using the case, from his base in London, to discredit Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In the Guardian interview, Berezovsky said: "We need to use force to change this regime ... It isn't possible to change this regime through democratic means. There can be no change without force, pressure."
Asked if he was fomenting a revolution, he said: "You are absolutely correct."
Berezovsky subsequently issued a statement of clarification in which he said he was not advocating a violent uprising.
Another Berezovsky associate, Alex Goldfarb, said the criminal case against the tycoon was designed "to distract attention from the fact that the Russian government stands suspected at least in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko".
"Boris Berezovsky has indeed said the Putin regime is undemocratic and cannot be changed through normal democratic processes, and he says he is helping forces in Russia aiming at regime change in a bloodless revolution similar to what happened in Ukraine and Georgia," he told Reuters by telephone.
Russian authorities are highly sensitive about any interference from abroad in the run-up to next year's presidential election, when Putin is to step down after serving a maximum two terms.
In a separate case, Berezovsky is being tried in absentia on embezzlement charges. The tycoon faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted of embezzling 214 million roubles (4.14 million pounds) from the Russian flag carrier, Aeroflot.
At the first court hearing in Moscow on Monday, Berezovsky's lawyers announced they would not take part in the Aeroflot case. The court was adjourned until July 12, and Berezovsky will be given a state-appointed lawyer.
Putin is a Stalinist Cunt!

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