Putin 'fears independent people'
LONDON, England (CNN) -- The arrest of Russia's richest man, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has cast doubt over President Vladimir Putin's commitment to radically reform the ex-Soviet state.
Boris Berezovsky, who is sought in Russia on fraud charges, has been granted political asylum in Britain. He spoke to CNN about Khodorkovsky's arrest, his exile and political ambitions.
CNN: So you see one Russian business leader arrested, charged with corruption. It is said it's politically motivated. What's your take on it?
Berezovsky: I am sure that it's politically motivated. And we need to calculate also when it happened. It happened exactly before parliamentary elections, which happened in Russia in December and before presidential elections in March next year. We had the same situation in '99, when before elections Putin started war in Chechnya, trying to get the support of the population. And today for sure a lot of people are poor in Russia and they are happy that Khodorkovsky is in jail.
CNN: What is president Putin afraid of from people like yourself and Mr. Khodorkovsky? What does he fear?
Berezovsky: First of all, he is afraid of our independence. Because every totalitarian system, and Putin created a totalitarian system in Russia, is a fight against independent people. And for sure people who have a lot of money are more independent than people who don't have a lot of money. For sure that's a basic reason. And again, I want to stress: it's politically motivated.
CNN: You have a lot of money, but also political ambition.
Berezovsky: Correct. And I don't try to hide my political ambitions. I said openly that I want to fight for power in Russia. And that's the reason, unfortunately, for why I am in England. Because if you want to fight for political ambition and you don't coincide with the president, you must do so outside the country.
CNN: Some of the money that was made after privatization was questionable, the way the privatization took place, the way people suddenly became super-rich. Isn't there an accusation that needs investigating...(an accusation) of people like yourself, Mr. Khodorkovsky, all the people that made fortunes?
Berezovsky: At no time in history was privatization just. Everybody was unhappy. Even oligarchs were not happy, because your neighbor got more than you got. And for sure every revolution, and we pass through revolution, needs to put (things) back in line, we need to finalize that. We need to give amnesty to all initial capital. Because without that we will again go to revolution, again we will destroy everything we tried to establish in the last 10 years.
CNN: Asking for political asylum means you're afraid of what if you go back to Russia?
Berezovsky: I will be arrested immediately. And they will put me in jail, because they will try to open maybe 10 cases against me. None of them was proved, none. And I am happy that the British Courts and the British government decided that I am not a criminal, that the goal of the Russian government is just to fight against political opponents.
CNN: If Mr. Putin and the Russian government continue to arrest people like yourself, what happens to Russian capitalism?
Berezovsky: It has already happened, unfortunately. Every week I meet 10 rich Russians who came here to London to buy property. They export the capital from Russia to other countries. It has damaged Russian economy, it has damaged Russian political stability.
CNN: You still have assets in Russia, do you?
Berezovsky: Yes I have.
CNN: Do you manage them from abroad or does somebody else manage them or how does it work?
Berezovsky: There is management. I have a newspaper still, the Kommersant, and management which is based in Moscow, they manage that.
CNN: And your aim is to go back one day and take up political office?
Berezovsky: Absolutely correct.