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Russia: Berezovsky Describes Attempted Assassination

(epa) July 19, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- British police have said that they arrested a man last month in connection with an alleged plot to murder self-exiled Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky. According to police, the man, who is thought to be a foreigner, was arrested in London on June 21, and was handed over to immigration officials two days later. Berezovsky spoke to RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Mikhail Sokolov about the alleged plot, which he says he was warned about earlier by friends.

RFE/RL: Did you in fact hide from a hired killer somewhere outside England?

Boris Berezovsky: Yes, Scotland Yard recommended that I leave the country and wait until the situation is resolved. So that's what happened; after a week they called me and said that I could come back.

RFE/RL: From media reports, it's impossible to understand what in fact took place. Was the person who was preparing to assassinate you arrested or sent out of Britain?

Berezovsky: I don't have any additional information about this. I was simply informed that the situation had been cleared up, that the person had been dealt with. And that allowed me to return to the country.

"Three months ago I was warned by my friends in Moscow that a plot was being prepared to assassinate me here, in London."

RFE/RL: Did you read the articles in "The Sun" and "The Times," where they reported that this person was in a room at the Hilton hotel in the Park Lane region of London?

Berezovsky: I read those articles. It's not a surprise he was in the Hilton, because that hotel is right next to my office, about a three-minute walk away.

RFE/RL: But they didn't tell you who it was? Was it someone from among your acquaintances?

Berezovsky: I was told that I knew this person. There's information that I can't comment on.

RFE/RL: So that's all that you can say about this assassination attempt?

Berezovsky: Basically yes. Three months ago I was warned by my friends in Moscow that a plot was being prepared to assassinate me here, in London, and that the attempt would be conducted in a different way than what they did to [former Russian security officer Aleksandr] Litvinenko, that a person would come from Moscow who I knew and who would ask to meet with me, and who during our meeting would simply kill me. He wouldn't attempt to hide from police, he would explain his actions by saying he had some kind of business claims against me.

In that situation -- where a person had alleged business claims, where he didn't attempt to run away and hide -- there's the possibility that he would be sentenced to 20 years in prison. According to English law, they'll let you out after 10 years with good behavior. He would get money [for carrying out the assassination], his family would get money -- in other words, he would be completely taken care of. And he wouldn't be serving his time at [Moscow's] Matrosskaya Tishina prison; he'd be here, in an English prison. So that's a guarantee that he wouldn't be tortured, he wouldn't be killed. He could eat well, watch television, exercise, learn a trade. So everything that's happened recently simply confirmed in full what I knew already and had already informed Scotland Yard about.

RFE/RL: Russia's ambassador to Britain, Yury Fedotov, has accused you of using these stories to try to draw attention away from your own alleged misdeeds -- money-laundering, fraud -- and attempting to justify in the eyes of British public opinion the anti-Russian steps being taken by London. How do you respond to this?

Berezovsky: I'm currently having my lawyers look into the possibility of filing a civil suit against the ambassador for slander. I don't know if it's possible to do this with an ambassador; my lawyers are looking into it. But it's a fact that everything he said related to what he called my criminal ties, money-laundering, and so on, are lies. And he knows that, in as far as I've never been convicted by any court, Russian or otherwise.

RFE/RL: Now you're suggesting that both you and Andrei Lugovoi agree to be tried on neutral territory. What would be this neutral territory between the West and Russia? China? India?

Berezovsky: I never said "neutral." I've said "other countries that have a judiciary that is independent from the executive branch and a court system that is not corrupt." There are actually many countries that fit that description, such as Denmark, Norway, Germany, and one can name at east five or six other such countries in Europe. I took this initiative with only one purpose. I want to say once again that it was Putin who personally ordered the killing of Aleksandr Litvinenko, and so I want to show that under no circumstances will Lugovoi be allowed to leave the country. [Lugovoi will not go to any] third country despite the bluff Lugovoi started on the Kremlin's advice, saying he was prepared to go to another country because his reputation had been tarnished in Britain and there could be no fair decision here. I want to say that this is just a game and I want to show that now, plainly speaking, the Kremlin is driven into a corner, but it's trying to bluff, play a game, wriggle. So I want to make less room for bluff.

RFE/RL Russia Report

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