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Russia vows legal action against Berezovsky on sedition charges - 1

Russian prosecutors said Friday they would take legal action against exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who admitted in an interview with a major British newspaper that he was plotting a coup in Russia.
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MOSCOW, April 13 (RIA Novosti) - Russian prosecutors said Friday they would take legal action against exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who admitted in an interview with a major British newspaper that he was plotting a coup in Russia.

Berezovsky, who was granted political asylum in the U.K. in 2003 after fleeing prosecution in his home country on fraud and money laundering charges, told The Guardian that he has bankrolled Kremlin insiders conspiring to overthrow President Vladimir Putin.

"We need to use force to change this regime, because ... this regime is unconstitutional," The Guardian's Web site quoted Berezovsky as saying. "It means that I call to use force to recreate [a] constitutional regime."

Responding to the remarks, Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika said: "Instructions have been given to react accordingly by launching new criminal proceedings [against Berezovsky], as [the Guardian interview] contains calls for a coup."

Spokeswoman Marina Gridneva said the Prosecutor General's Office was planning to send a formal request to the British government that Berezovsky be stripped of his political refugee status and handed over to Russian authorities.

Defense lawyers representing Berezovsky in Moscow said they had received a summons to appear at the Russian Prosecutor's Office later in the day, but that the reason had not been explained to them.

"We have been notified that we must be in the prosecutor's office at 4 p.m. [12 p.m. GMT] today," Andrei Borovkov said, adding that he doubted the visit had anything to do with the fresh case Russian prosecutors are set to open against his client on sedition charges.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that Berezovsky's calls for regime change in Russia violate his status of political refugee.

"I think there are enough competent lawyers in Britain who know that sedition with regard to a foreign country constitutes sufficient grounds for launching legal action," Lavrov told a news conference, commenting on Berezovsky's remarks to The Guardian.

Lavrov said Britain should no longer harbor Berezovsky, as he "abuses his political refugee status by taking actions which, under British law, require his extradition."

A senior member of the Russian parliament said prosecutors in Russia have every reason to ask their British counterparts for Berezovsky's extradition.

"I think there is every reason to approach our British partners on the issue of Berezovsky's extradition," said Oleg Morozov, First Vice Speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament.

Berezovsky is already facing sedition charges, brought against him in February 2006 after he made similar comments in an interview with a major French news agency.

"Any violent actions on the part of the opposition in Russia will be justified today. Including a coup. This is precisely what I am working on now," he told Agence France Presse.

Chaika also said Friday that the Prosecutor General's Office would take up the case opened in connection with Berezovsky's alleged embezzlement of funds from Russia's flagship air carrier Aeroflot. He said the case, which the Prosecutor General's Office has been investigating on and off since 1999, would soon be submitted to court.

In the late 1990s, Berezovsky was accused of setting up two front companies in Switzerland to divert millions of dollars from Aeroflot's coffers. The case was dropped after the tycoon proved he had nothing to do with the scheme, but the probe was soon re-launched, leading to his indictment on fraud charges in absentia in 2001.

More charges of embezzlement were leveled at Berezovsky in 2002, this time in connection with the alleged theft of cars in a deal between major Russian automakers Logovaz and Avtovaz.

In late March of this year, Berezovsky was questioned in London by Russian prosecutors investigating the murder of former Russian secret agent Alexander Litvinenko.

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