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MosNews, July 16, 2004

Boris Berezovsky: I Prefer Nabokov to Klebnikov

An interview with Boris Berezovsky by Yefim Barban, MN staff writer

Covers of Paul Klebnikovís books

In his last interview, granted to the Mir Novostei weekly newspaper, Forbes Russia editor Paul Klebnikov admitted that when he was working on his book about Boris Berezovsky “Godfather of the Kremlin: Boris Berezovsky and the Looting of Russia”, he seriously feared for his life. “At first, the editorial office wanted me and my family to go into hiding,” Paul recalled. “But it became clear that Berezovsky opted for another method of settling scores with the author of the book — he took us to a London court.”

Today the hero of Klebnikov’s book, Boris Berezovsky, comments on the murder of his opponent.

The police are investigating several leads behind Klebnikov’s murder. Among them is the Chechen trail, and the involvement of the special services. Your name is mentioned as well. Which of those leads do you deem most credible?

I can say for sure not only which of those is the most credible but also who committed the crime.

So who is it?

The present-day Russian regime is behind that murder. Undoubtedly, Klebnikov fell victim to the redistribution of property in Russia initiated by President Putin. And, to be perfectly serious, Klebnikov became a victim of Putin’s policy. The president of Russia is at the top of the vertical of authoritarian power that he built and therefore he must be held fully accountable for what has happened. This is, so to speak, the general outline.

To be more specific, the murder was the result of a redistribution of property which is always fraught with a growing crime rate. Klebnikov wanted, in his own manner and quite professionally, I believe, to look into the developments going on in Russia. Of course, those who initiated the redistribution of property were not happy about it.

So, yet again you are implying that Russian special services are involved in this case?

I would not dare to assert that with full confidence. I am not sure that Russia’s special services are behind it, although I do not rule it out. I am talking of the policy to which Klebnikov fell victim. And as to what that policy resulted in, whether in the actions of the special services, or a group of angry businessmen, whose wealth Klebnikov had sought to make public, or of some other people involved in the case, this is just the consequence of the political climate forming in Russia.

In his list of Russia’s 100 richest people published in the Forbes Russia edition Paul Klebnikov included, among many others, Yelena Baturina, the Moscow mayor’s wife, who, according to his information, is worth $1 billion. Could the threat emanate from people who were unhappy about the publicity?

I have no grounds to finger Yelena Baturina or any other specific person. However, in Russia such exposure could be perceived by many of those on the list as a tip-off to the tax authorities or other political opponents. This in turn is a threat to their businesses, wealth and career. The response to such threats often evolves into a contract hit in Russia.

You said that Klebnikov handled information inaccurately. What did you mean by that?

In his time Klebnikov published materials in the Forbes magazine about me. The courts ruled the reports were false. This was what the joint statement I issued together with Forbes read: “The facts, cited by Klebnikov, were false.” That carelessness with information could also be a reason for his death.

How do you remember him?

I met him only once in my lifetime when he interviewed me in 1996. I was meeting a great many journalists then and that is why I cannot remember him at all. The article published afterwards in Forbes taught me a serious lesson, whereupon I began paying more attention to whom and about what I was talking.

That lesson was that even the Western media are capable of publishing false reports and juggling the facts. And that is what I managed to prove in a British court. Klebnikov had only proved that Western journalists, too, lie. After I learned that Klebnikov was not a journalist but a writer I stopped following his creative work. I prefer Nabokov, Bunin, Bulgakov.

Klebnikov was a US citizen. Will his murder tell on the relations between the US and Russia?

This is a question for Putin and Bush.


See also:

Freedom of Speech and Media Law in Russia

MosNews, July 16, 2004

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