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Tuesday, April 6, 1999 Published at 19:20 GMT 20:20 UK

World: Europe

Arrest warrant for Russian tycoon

Berezovsky: Claims security forces tried to kill him

Russia' s prosecutor-general has authorised the arrest of billionaire tycoon Boris Berezovsky in connection with a probe into the national airline Aeroflot, Russian news agencies reported.

The BBC's Andrew Harding: "This could be the end of the road for Boris Berezovsky"
Mr Berezovsky is also wanted on charges of abuse of office while he occupied a series of senior government posts; money-laundering; and of engaging in other illegal business activities, Itar-Tass cited police as saying.

The prosecutor also gave the green light for former Aeroflot deputy director Nikolai Glushkov to be arrested, Interfax said.

News of the arrest warrant comes only a couple of weeks after President Boris Yeltsin ordered an investigation into a sex scandal involving the prosecutor-general himself, Yuri Skuratov.

Correspondents say Aeroflot has for years been run by executives close to Mr Berezovsky, who has developed a reputation as a powerful Kremlin insider with close links to President Yeltsin and his family.

Investigators suspect Mr Berezovsky of setting up a Swiss company to hide hard currency earnings from Aeroflot, Interfax reported.

Mr Berezovsky is currently in France and says he will return to defend himself.

Sex video 'blackmail'

Since his appointment, Mr Skuratov has launched corruption probes into Mr Berezovsky and several other prominent Russians, antagonising many.

In March, he received a vote of confidence in parliament for his investigations and withdrew an offer to resign, which he had tendered earlier.

Shortly afterwards, Russian government-controlled television screened a video, which reportedly shows Mr Skuratov in bed with two prostitutes.

Mr Skuratov himself has dismissed the video as an attempt to blackmail him into halting his anti-corruption work.

Billionaire's loosening Kremlin links

Mr Berezovsky, a billionaire with holdings ranging from oil to airlines to media, has gained a reputation for meddling in Russian politics and influencing Kremlin decisions.

He helped bankroll Mr Yeltsin's tough 1996 re-election campaign and has enjoyed several top government postings as a result.

Mr Berezovsky was seen as directly involved in several recent government reshuffles, but has had furious disagreements with the current Prime Minister, Yevgeny Primakov.

The tycoon has complained of a vendetta and said members of the security forces were plotting to assassinate him.

Mr Yeltsin last month moved to oust Mr Berezovsky from his post as secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the alliance of former Soviet republics, thus stripping him of immunity from prosecution.

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