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Berezovsky: Ukraine Vote 'Key' For West's Future

Boris Berezovsky lives in London exile.
Boris Berezovsky lives in London exile.
LONDON -- Fugitive Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky says the world's key political event is currently taking place in Ukraine, not Iran, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Berezovsky told RFE/RL from London that he thinks "the West does not comprehend the importance" of the political situation in Ukraine, which he said is more complex than in Iran and the Middle East.

Berezovsky said that in addition to "Russia's fortunes," the "future of the values of Western civilization" is being decided in Ukraine.

He added that neither opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych nor Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko will be able to solve Ukraine's biggest problem -- bridging the division between the pro-Russian, mostly eastern part of the country with the pro-European mainly western part. The two are in "severe confrontation," Berezovsky said.

Berezovsky said "one part of [Ukrainian] society is rushing toward civilization, and the other is pulling back toward barbarism."

He also accused both outgoing President Viktor Yushchenko and Tymoshenko of responsibility for the the fact that the 2004 Orange Revolution did not live up to people's expectations.

Berezovsky added that Yushchenko will be regarded by history as the "great reformer" but also as the person who did not take advantage of the enormous amount of trust Ukrainians placed in him after the Orange Revolution. He said Yushchenko's main weakness is that he is not a politician but "an ideologue."

Berezovsky said he no business interests in Ukraine, only political interests. With Russia, he said his interest is to do everything possible to help it "become a civilized country."

Berezovksy said that although the second round of the Ukrainian presidential election on February 7 marks a choice "between two great evils," he would prefer to see Tymoshenko as president.

Despite that, Berezovsky said he is optimistic about the general situation and thinks "those who want a civilized future for Ukraine" will eventually prevail.

Berezovsky has been living since 2001 in Great Britain, where he has political asylum.

In June 2009, a Russian court found Berezovsky guilty in absentia of stealing $1.8 million from the AvtoVAZ and LogoVAZ automotive companies in the early 1990s and sentenced to 13 years in prison. In 2007, a Moscow court sentenced Berezovsky to six years for embezzling $9 million from the state airliner Aeroflot.