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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Berezovsky Affirms Sale Of 49% Stake in ORT

Boris Berezovsky confirmed his intention to sell his stake in ORT television in an interview published Thursday and said the state planned to take control of the station.

ORT, the country's most-watched station, has always been 51 percent state-owned, but Berezovsky was long seen as the true force behind it.

Berezovsky, a businessman and one-time Kremlin insider who sided last year with those who accuse President Vladimir Putin of threatening civil liberties, told the daily Kommersant that he was to sell his 49 percent stake in ORT and that this would effectively transfer the company to the state.

"The deal to sell ORT shares is being completed. Roman Abramovich is acting as go-between," Berezovsky said, referring to a leading oil and aluminum magnate and close business colleague who was recently elected governor of the Chukotka region and is reputed to have close ties to the Kremlin.

"I think the powers that be trust him," Berezovsky told the daily, one of several media outlets he controls.

Berezovsky said he has no intention of selling his stake in Kommersant or other media holdings, such as the Noviye Izvestia daily, although he did say he is searching for a "strategic foreign investor" for the second-tier TV6 television channel.

Berezovsky, wanted for questioning in a fraud case linked to Aeroflot, quit the State Duma last summer and fled abroad, saying he felt threatened by the president.

Berezovsky refused to reveal details of the ORT talks but Kommersant cited unnamed sources as saying that an $80 million deal had been reached last fall with an offshore company linked to the Sibneft oil major and that, down the road, the deal might involve a swap for shares in an oil-related enterprise.

Asked whether he felt selling his stake was a "pity," Berezovsky replied: "'Pity?' ORT isn't a business; it's politics. So the word pity doesn't apply."

Sergei Dorenko, an ORT journalist and executive and a close Berezovsky ally, told the Segodnya daily he had opposed bids to pass ORT to the state. But the shares were "being handed to Putin like a gift."

"My understanding is that the Kremlin was given the task of taking over ORT no matter what," he told the daily. (Reuters, MT)