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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Berezovsky Still a Top Scientist

MTBerezovsky receiving a medal from the Russian Academy of Sciences on Dec. 19, 1996. He remains a member.
Self-exiled businessman and fervent Kremlin critic Boris Berezovsky has been vilified in almost ever corner of Russian officialdom.

But there is at least one venerable state-backed organization that has yet to sever ties with Berezovsky, who has accused Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of everything from money laundering to murder -- the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Berezovsky, 63, has been a member of the academy since December 1991, shortly after then-President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree establishing it on the basis of the Soviet Academy of Sciences as Russia's "supreme scientific institution."

In fact, Berezovsky told The Moscow Times that he believes that he is still receiving his monthly stipend from the state-funded academy, which was originally founded by Peter the Great in 1724. "As far as I know, they continue paying me money. Not me directly, but my office in Moscow," Berezovsky said by telephone from London, where he lives as a political refugee. "I haven't heard anything about their stopping payments."

The academy's web site lists Berezovsky as a corresponding member, meaning that he is entitled to a monthly stipend of 25,000 rubles ($690).

Berezovsky, who holds a doctorate in applied mathematics, worked as an engineer at a Soviet meteorological research center and was appointed head of a laboratory at the Soviet Academy of Sciences' Institute of Management Problems in 1987.

Berezovsky's continued membership has reportedly rankled some in the academy, which has shown an independent streak unusual for state-funded organizations. Last May, geophysicist Vladimir Strakhov proposed amending the academy's charter to allow Berezovsky's expulsion on the grounds that criminal charges had been brought against him.

The academy leadership rejected the proposal, however, with Yury Osipov, head of the academy, saying it could become an unwelcome precedent. All academy members are elected for life, and no one has ever been expelled. Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, who was sent into internal exile for protesting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, was also never expelled from the Soviet academy.

Since his election to the academy, Berezovsky has managed to become the country's most politically influential oligarch; he has served as a deputy chairman of the Security Council, controlled the largest national television network and reportedly played a key role in Putin's political ascent.

He fled the country in 2001 after being accused of fraud and received political asylum in Britain, which issued him a passport under the name Platon Yelenin. British authorities have repeatedly rejected requests by Russian prosecutors to extradite Berezovsky.

Irina Presnyakova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Academy of Sciences, said there were never any plans to expel Berezovsky. She disputed the businessman's claim, however, that he was still receiving his stipend.

"Members who have lived outside Russia for more than six months do not get their stipends because they earn money abroad," Presnyakova told The Moscow Times.

Berezovsky is a member of the academy's branch for nanotechnology and IT, though his colleague in the branch, Stanislav Vlasov, said he and his fellow researchers had not heard from the businessman in quite a while.

"It's not a unique case," Vlasov said. "Several other members who left Russia have lost their connection with the academy."

Berezovsky said that while he cannot attend conferences, he stays in touch with some of his colleagues. "But I wouldn't like to mention their names," he said.

Academy rules require members to write research papers and attend meetings, though there is not a single listing under the "projects" or "publications" sections on Berezovsky's page on the academy's web site.

It is, nonetheless, virtually impossible to kick Berezovsky out of the academy, Vlasov told The Moscow Times. "There is just no existing rule regulating the expulsion of a member," he said.

Berezovsky said he has turned his focus to political science, having completed a project about Ukraine titled, appropriately, "Ukraine." He said he is also interested in writing a Russian-language schoolbook for children.