- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 18, 2000

MOSCOW Business tycoon Boris Berezovsky yesterday accused President Vladimir Putin of authoritarian methods and said he would resign from parliament to protest what he called a Kremlin offensive on regional governors and big business.
"I don't want to take part in the destruction of Russia," Mr. Berezovsky said of Mr. Putin's plan to strengthen the federal government by curbing the rights of independent-minded provinces.
Regional leaders have rejected Mr. Putin's plan, which would deprive them of their seats in the upper house of parliament, but pro-Kremlin parties in the lower house have vowed to overrule the veto. Representatives of the two chambers were meeting yesterday to try to find a compromise.
Mr. Berezovsky said he would submit his resignation from the lower house tomorrow.
He said he met with Mr. Putin two weeks ago to try to dissuade him from the plan, but the president wouldn't listen to his arguments.
"The president said that his actions were necessary to strengthen the central government and achieve positive economic results," Mr. Berezovsky said at a news conference.
A onetime Kremlin insider who helped engineer Mr. Putin's presidential victory in March, Mr. Berezovsky said Russia was moving toward authoritarian rule resembling some Latin American nations a path he said would be ruinous for the country.
"All power will be concentrated in the president's hands," he said. "Russia has no chance of surviving under an authoritarian model."
Mr. Berezovsky said he didn't regret helping Mr. Putin's victory but added that he would continue to oppose the president's actions and would help rally a political opposition.
Mr. Berezovsky said his decision to resign from parliament also stemmed from a recent government crackdown on big businesses. Prosecutors and tax officials have recently moved against several big companies, accusing them of defrauding the state.
"It's a deliberate campaign aimed at destroying big business," Mr. Berezovsky said. There is no reasonable motive behind that, simply the desire to concentrate power."
The government instead should declare an amnesty for all political or economic actions taken during the tumultuous years after the 1991 Soviet collapse, he said.
"Everyone who wasn't sitting with arms folded during those years has willingly or unwillingly broken the law," Mr. Berezovsky said. "And those sitting in the Kremlin are in the same situation."
If he leaves parliament, Mr. Berezovsky will lose his legislative immunity from prosecution, but he said it was worth nothing anyway.
"If the government wants to put a deputy in jail, it will certainly do that," he said.
Mr. Berezovsky said he had met with prosecutors on Friday to discuss fraud complaints against the Russian national airline Aeroflot. Mr. Berezovsky, reportedly associated with Aeroflot through holding companies and middlemen, has denied any wrongdoing.
Prosecutors have claimed that up to $600 million in Aeroflot profits were embezzled through two Swiss companies. Mr. Berezovsky was initially a suspect in the case but is now considered a witness.

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