Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Warrant To Arrest Berezovsky Canceled




The Prosecutor General's Office canceled an arrest warrant Wednesday for controversial tycoon and political figure Boris Berezovsky after he said he would return to Russia - where prosecutors are waiting to question him in a corruption probe at Aeroflot.


Deputy Prosecutor General Mikhail Katyshev made the decision after Berezovsky said he would come back and obey the law, Interfax reported.


But Berezovsky's lawyer Genri Reznik wouldn't promise that Berezovsky would submit to questioning, though he praised the decision as "courageous" and "professional."


Reznik said prosecutors had no legal right to issue the warrant because Berezovsky had not been informed about the charges and investigators had no reason to think he would evade questioning.


Reznik said Berezovsky would return to Moscow "between Friday and Sunday." Berezovsky was quoted as saying by Interfax he would come back.


The political considerations behind the decision to back away from the arrest order were hazy. The move comes amid what some have described as a temporary cease-fire in the jousting among President Boris Yeltsin, Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and the opposition Communists.


Berezovsky, a vocal anti-communist, had a reputation as a Kremlin favorite through his ties to Yeltsin's family. But he has lost much of his political and business clout in a drawn-out struggle with Primakov.


He was charged last week with "illegal entrepreneurship" and money laundering, with prosecutors saying they were investigating the possible diversion of money from Aeroflot through a Swiss company, Andava.


Berezovsky denies any connection with Aeroflot and said the charges against him were concocted by Primakov in order to undermine his support in the Kremlin.


But there were doubts about how serious Russian authorities were about actually arresting Berezovsky, since the warrant was issued when he was out of the country. Political analysts said it appeared to be an attempt to force him into a genteel exile without actual criminal proceedings, which could be result in embarrassing revelations from Berezovsky.


Russia's chief policeman, Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, said Friday he "did not intend to arrest Berezovsky" but would wait for him to come back on his own. Some commentators have said in the past week that it was in the Kremlin's interests to keep Berezovsky outside of the country because he could testify against many top Russian officials. Others suggested that he might assume the role of the leader of modern-day Russian political emigration.


Besides Berezovsky, several other high-profile tycoons are currently abroad and facing arrest warrants. Alexander Smolensky, head of the once-prospering SBS-Agro banking group, is in Austria, and Siberian aluminum magnate Anatoly Bykov is overseas, reportedly in Acapulco, though his representatives would not confirm that.


Berezovsky parlayed a fortune made selling cars into reported holdings in media, oil and airlines, though he denies some of those reports. He served as executive secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States until he was fired by the CIS heads of state at Yeltsin's insistence April 2.


Political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky said Wednesday that prosecutors could be setting a trap for Berezovsky. Once in Moscow, he could be obliged to sign a promise not to leave the country and thus be exposed to eventual arrest.


"He would start going to interrogations, then additional circumstances could be uncovered, and he could be handcuffed on any day," Piontkovsky said. "The hide-and-seek goes on."


Others say that the fast changing of decisions from the Prosecutor's Office is a result of instability within the chief law-enforcement organization itself. Prosecutor General Yury Skuratov, who has been leveling corruption allegations at the Kremlin, is currently suspended while Yeltsin tries to force him out. Skuratov's deputies alternately take charge of the office.


"How can one be certain of anything if such a reshuffle is under way in the Prosecutor's Office?" said Grigory Belonuchkin of the Panorama think tank. "Today Katyshev decides, tomorrow [deputy Prosecutor General Yury] Chaika, and the day after tomorrow - Skuratov."


Even Berezovsky's spokesman Vladimir Ruga said he was not certain the business tycoon would walk free if he returns to Russia. "We live in a country where anything is possible," he said.