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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kovalyov: Berezovsky Planning to Smear Putin

A former head of the Federal Security Service said Monday he expected Boris Berezovsky was orchestrating a campaign to smear President Vladimir Putin as having been involved in "explosions and murders."

Nikolai Kovalyov, a former FSB chief and now a deputy to the Duma, told Interfax on Monday that he suspected such allegations would be put forward by former FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who is in England and has requested political asylum there.

"This is a scheme of compromising one’s political opponents that has already been developed by Berezovsky," Kovalyov said.

Kovalyov ran the FSB in 1998, and Litvinenko, then one of his agents, has claimed publicly that the FSB had instructed him to assassinate Berezovsky.

The FSB leadership has countered that it never asked Litvinenko to do any such thing and says that Litvinenko, an ally of Berezovsky’s, was part of an illegal murder-for-hire bureau within the organization.

Putin replaced Kovalyov as FSB director, beginning his meteoric ascent to power.

And that ascent was further accelerated in September 1999, when a series of four explosions in apartment buildings, two in Moscow and two in the provinces, killed nearly 300 people in their sleep.

No one has ever taken credit for the bombings, but the authorities spoke and acted as if they were the work of Chechen radicals, who a month earlier had invaded Dagestan.

Earlier this month, Litvinenko and his family sought political asylum in Britain. A spokesman for the Litvinenkos said the Russian authorities were harassing them and that they intended to offer information about who organized the Moscow apartment bombings.

Russian and Western media have on occasion cautiously entertained the possibility that the bombs were orchestrated by someone in the Kremlin camp — as part of a plan to get Putin elected amid the hysteria of war and terror.

Putin has said he thinks it "immoral" to even speculate about such a thing, and the pro-Kremlin Unity faction in parliament has blocked efforts by the Yabloko faction to hold parliamentary hearings on the matter.

Last week, Berezovsky also announced himself a "political immigrant," saying he was being harassed by Putin’s government. Berezovsky declined to appear in Moscow at the Prosecutor General’s Office to be interrogated and possibly charged for the alleged diversion of nearly $1 billion from the coffers of Aeroflot, the national airline run by Boris Yeltsin’s son-in-law.

Russian and Swiss prosecutors and Russian media have suggested that Berezovsky siphoned money out of Aeroflot. In announcing his political emigration last week, Berezovsky said cash from Aeroflot had gone to "fund the [Putin] presidential campaign" in 2000 and the Unity Duma election campaign in late 1999.

On Monday, Kovalyov, who heads the Duma’s commission for the struggle with corruption, expressed hope Berezovsky would offer more concrete details and documentation — but also doubts that he could. He added that if Berezovsky could not substantiate his allegations, he might face criminal slander charges.

"This businessman’s statement has caused serious harm to the president and to the State Duma, and it will not be left without attention," Kovalyov said.