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7 Apr, 2009 23:11

Berezovsky financed terrorists by paying ransoms – Chechen prez

Boris Berezovsky encouraged Chechen warlords Shamil Basayev and Salman Raduyev to kidnap people so that Berezovsky could finance them by paying ransoms, claims Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.

In an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the Chechen leader said he personally witnessed the agreement.

“He couldn’t just give money to the militants, so he invented this mechanism. In my presence, Berezovsky suggested to Raduyev and Basayev: ‘Capture people and I’ll ransom them. I’ll get good publicity and you’ll get money.’ He paid millions of dollars to Basayev,” Ramzan Kadyrov said.

During the time in question, 1996-97, Berezovsky was deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, and negotiated the release of hostages captured in Chechnya. This became a profitable business for rampaging warlords in the de facto independent republic.

Both Basayev and Raduyev held posts in the Chechen government under President Aslan Maskhadov.

Aleksandr Korzhakov, the former head of Kremlin security, says he believes Kadyrov’s statements 100 per cent.

“In fact, I'm sure there isn't a person in Russia who does not believe this idea. We've had statements from the people who were kidnapped during the wars. And their stories only support the claim,” Korzhakov said.

Many people seem certain of Berezovsky's guilt, but what does that change?

“This changes nothing,” says State Duma Deputy Aleksandr Khinshtein. “He can't be charged with anything, he was never directly involved in the kidnappings. Yes, there are witness statements – but they aren't supported by any evidence. It would be the same as if he, for example, accused me of being involved in the kidnappings. And even though we are certain of his guilt – there is no way of charging him with it.”

Kadyrov also said he believed Berezovsky was behind the killing of journalist Anna Politkovskaya. She was exposing crimes in the Chechen republic.

“We would need Politkovskaya today to show what she used to say, and what there is now. People arrive and walk freely around Grozny. A normal life! How could our enemies use Politkovskaya effectively? By killing her. Who did it? Berezovsky, I believe.”

The official investigation into the murder of the journalist never revealed who ordered it. Four men were tried for doing the killing, but were found not guilty by the jury. Russian prosecutors are now revising the case.

According to Kadyrov, 'Berezovsky and the likes of him’ have drawn Chechnya into two bloody conflicts to cripple and dissolve Russia.

“The people doing world politics chose our republic because they knew us: our strength, courage, spirituality… In the first and the second campaigns, they used us as a tool, dragged us into this war. The White House said: take sovereignty. They armed us and used us against the sovereign state of Russia,” Kadyrov said.

Boris Berezovsky is a Russian tycoon living in exile in London. He was an influential figure in the late 1990s and held several public positions.

He has been sentenced in absentia to a 6 year term in Russia for fraud and money laundering. He was also charged with planning a coup after publically admitting ‘working’ on a forced change of regime in Russia in 2007.

But Berezovsky has political asylum in the UK and London has repeatedly refused Russia’s extradition requests.