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In exile, he often said he feared for his life, particularly after his friend and former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko died from radioactive polonium poisoning in 2006.
In Russia, Kremlin allies and pro-government media pressed ahead with portrayals of Berezovsky as a beaten man who had begged Putin’s forgiveness in a last-ditch effort to return to his homeland. Berezovsky’s friends in London have denied this.
Nationalist lawmaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky said he had met Berezovsky by chance in the Israeli resort of Eilat in January, and that Berezovsky had said he would do “anything Moscow and the Kremlin told him” in order to return to Russia.
“The only condition (Berezovsky named) was a decree pardoning him” for the crimes he has been convicted of in Russia, Zhirinovsky told the daily Izvestia in an interview published on Monday.
A former mathematician, Berezovsky made millions running post-Soviet car dealerships and expanded his business empire massively throughout the 1990s.
He was one of a handful of well-connected businessmen who became instant billionaires under former president Boris Yeltsin when the state arranged for them to buy giant oil companies for what quickly proved to be a fraction of their value.
As one of the central figures in Yeltsin’s inner circle, he helped forge the career of Yeltsin’s hand-picked successor Putin, a little-known official named prime minister in 1999 and acting president when Yeltsin resigned on millennium eve.
After Putin was confirmed in the presidency in an election in 2000, Berezovsky quickly fell out with him and left for Britain where he denounced his former ally as a corrupt “bandit” surrounded by former KGB agents.