From car salesman to Kremlin king-maker to billionaire political exile, Boris Berezovsky seemed to play a role in nearly every crucial scene in the roller coaster drama of post-Soviet Russia.
A mathematician by training, Berezovsky’s expertise at political calculus gave him power beyond his position in a career that made him many enemies - the most prominent of them Vladimir Putin, the man he helped bring to power.
The cause of his death was unclear and some reports said it was a suspected suicide, The Guardian reported. His mansion was only cleared for authorities after a sweep was made for chemical or radioactive materials suggesting it might have been deliberately contaminated.
In a country with a rich history of court intrigue and a reputation for opacity in the Kremlin from tsarist, his manoeuvring earned him comparison to Russia’s ultimate behind-the-scenes operator, the “mad monk” Grigory Rasputin.
Credited with a part in saving Boris Yeltsin’s political skin and shaping Putin into presidential material with the help of money and media, he was then blamed - formally or not - for dark episodes that followed his falling out with the Kremlin.
Berezovsky traded unofficial accusations with Russian authorities over killings such as the polonium poisoning death of Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006, and survived assassination attempts himself.
In 1994, Berezovsky’s car was blown up and his driver killed - reportedly decapitated. In 2007, he said British police had warned him of a plot to kill him.
His death at age 67 may only begin the latest mystery. British police said it was “unexplained.”