Sunday, 14 February 2016

The following text is from ‘The Fugitive’ – Part 1 of a BBC documentary series ‘Russian Godfathers’, directed by Patrick Forbes and narrated by Ian Holm, first broadcast in the autumn of 2005.[1]

“Boris Berezovsky now lives in Britain, with houses [and palaces] for him and his family dotted around the Home Counties. Two years ago he won political asylum here, claiming his life was in constant danger from Russian secret agents. He employs a team of ex-Foreign Legion veterans to guard him round the clock.”

Anyone with a passing interest in Russia at that time knows that in reality, Putin’s government would scarcely even have dreamt of risking the diplomatic furore accompanying a state-sanctioned assassination, in any western country, far less Britain or the United States. For well over a decade, Moscow had been negotiating the terms for membership of the World Trade Organisation; Litvinenko’s death in the following year probably in fact put Russia’s final accession back by several years (it took place in 2012). Berezovsky knew very well that as far as Russian secret agents were concerned, his expensive security arrangements served as a means of ‘keeping up appearances’ – important from the point of view retaining British government support.

There is still [i.e. in 2005] an Interpol warrant out for Berezovsky’s arrest; he can only fly to Israel – as a Jew, he still holds citizenship there. Anywhere other than Britain or Israel, and he’s in trouble… In this gilded cage, how should Boris fill the days? Why – plot, of course. Working out a plan to topple Putin, and take Boris back to the throne of Russia… Boris’s key lieutenant is Alex Goldfarb, a famous Soviet dissident. In the 80s he fled Russia for America and a lifetime of intrigue.”

A. Goldfarb: “I got involved with Boris when I realised that he was happening to be on the right side. He is the guy who is prepared to put his money where his mouth is. It happened when he was targeted by Putin as the number one sacrificial lamb[2] in this drive against the oligarchs.”

“The first plank of Berezovsky’s strategy – a concerted attempt to blacken Putin’s reputation in the West, while positioning Boris as the new found friend of democracy and freedom. Today, behind closed doors, he’s addressing a private gathering of EU policymakers…”

[1] In a Guardian review of this series entitled ‘What a carve-up’, dated 03 December 2005, Andrew Mueller wrote: “Putin, able to see matters rather straighter than Yeltsin, realised two crucial things about the oligarchs: that they were potentially more powerful than him, and that they were about as popular with your average Russian as a man idly burning bundles of £50 notes outside an orphanage.”
[2] Boris Berezovsky – “sacrificial lamb”. For most people, the sudden ironic surge provoked by this extraordinary metaphor will die away almost as quickly as it registers. Specialists however will seize on it as evidence for the existence of entirely new fields of research.

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