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Exiled Russian Oligarch Accuses Putin of Undermining Democracy

Exiled Russian billionaire businessman Boris Berezovsky says President Vladimir Putin will never give up power, despite his many promises he will step down in 2008.

In an interview with the VOA Russian service, Mr. Berezovsky called President Putin a traitor and said Russia must start again to rebuild democracy.

Mr. Berezovsky said democracy in Russia is inevitable and the only way for the country to survive. He said Mr. Putin will never give up power and will try to keep it by forming a union with Belarus or Kazakhstan. He said Mr. Putin's campaign in Chechnya is a criminal act.

Russian troops reentered Chechnya in 1999 after a series of bombings blamed on Chechen separatists. Mr. Berezovsky accused Russian security services of being behind the attacks, saying that is why there has been no parliamentary investigation.

He said the Chechens hated former President Boris Yeltsin, but understood he was trying to keep Russia unified. Mr. Berezovsky says the Chechens believe Mr. Putin is against them as a people.

Mr. Berezovsky has denied charges of directly funding Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's political campaign, which would violate Ukrainian law barring outside financing. He said his foundation has financed pro-democracy groups in Ukraine long before the elections.

Mr. Berezovsky got rich buying up state-run enterprises when the Soviet Union collapsed. Russian authorities accuse him of fraud and tax evasion. Britain granted him political asylum in 2003.