THE BEREZOVSKY SHOW

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MOSCOW, February 8 (RIA Novosti's political commentator Pyotr Romanov) - The Russian media, possibly trying to prove their freedom to the West, nearly every day publish interviews with the people whom the Kremlin regards as its most bitter enemies. Yesterday Kommersant published an interview with Aslan Maskhadov, and today's issue of Komsomolskaya Pravda features an interview with Boris Berezovsky.

It is a short, but very interesting interview in which Mr. Berezovsky denounces the Kremlin and said the West is prostituting itself. Trying on the shoes of Nostradamus, the businessman predicted the dissolution of Russia, saying that the Caucasus would secede first, followed by Tatarstan and subsequently all other republics. Most importantly, he repeated that "the Chechens have a nuclear bomb." Though small and portable, and lacking some vital element, it is almost ready to be exploded.

The interview leaves the impression that Mr. Berezovsky is offended. When the U.S. administration said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, everyone commented on the news. But when Berezovsky made a similar statement, nobody paid heed to it. Worse still, when the journalists of Komsomolskaya Pravda asked the Russian special services to comment on the statement, they were told the services do not comment on "the ravings of a madman."

In other words, they mean that such ravings cannot be commented upon. Being a professional commentator, I cannot agree with the FSB. I have commented on crazier things than this.

First, ravings are widespread in politics, and second, the ravings of such a finely calculated man as Mr. Berezovsky are always a cover for a PR campaign. Unlike other people who use ravings to improve their image, Mr. Berezovsky is out to blacken it. In the past, he was satisfied with being "the gray eminence of the Kremlin," who gradually turned into a figure in political Halloween. But even that brought him considerable political and financial dividends.

The most important thing for Mr. Berezovsky as a political showman now is not to be forgotten by 2008, when Russia will hold presidential elections. This is why he staged the farcical disappearance of presidential candidate Mr. Rybkin last year, which was crowned by the candidate's wife's historical phrase: "Russia is in trouble if it has such politicians."

He also stood behind the farcical creation of several marginal opposition parties, which die the next day after their birthday party, with a television linkup with London. One way or another, Mr. Berezovsky wants his name to be said and written as much as possible. It has recently been reported that the emigre decided to leave his cozy London flat for modest Kiev, apparently moving closer to the site of crucial action in 2008.

The farce with the "Chechen nuclear bomb" is one of his tricks. If it fails, the inventive businessman will think of something else, however outrageous it may be. The main goal is not to leave the scene.

So, these are not ravings, this is a show. And the show must go on.

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