Viktor Shebalin, who appeared with your husband at that most scandalous press conference in the autumn of 1998, said later on that during his work in the “organs” [security services, tr.] your husband passed all the information on to Berezovsky. There were rumours that the people who took part in the press conference got large sums of money for it.
“Shebalin was the one who took part in the press conference as a provocateur from the FSB. Rumours were spreading that Sasha was getting a million for taking part in that press conference – he told me: ‘Marina, if I had taken money from Boris, we would not be able to remain friends.’ And as for the press conference itself – the discussions about eliminating Berezovsky took place during December, and he first told Berezovsky about it in February – so it wasn’t as if he’d received an order and then run off to report it… I recall that December, because Sasha was very troubled and downcast. Every time I asked him to go to a concert, he’d say: ‘Marina, you can’t imagine how little I feel like going to concerts. The things I know, I can’t tell you.’ He didn’t even say that to me. He would come home upset. I would say: ‘Put it out of your mind!’ He replied: “I can’t do it just like that. If you like, I’ll go for a walk near the house for a while after work, I’ll go away somewhere.’ He took it all very much to heart, it was hard for him to separate his life from his work.
“At some point they decided that the initiative to eliminate Berezovsky came down from their chief, their administration, for this was a very independent division – and that the people upstairs didn’t know about it. And they took their report to the director of the FSB, at that time it was [General Nikolai] Kovalev. He listened to what they had to tell him, called in their chief, who of course denied having said what he’d said, claiming that nothing of the kind had taken place. And all those who had taken part was withdrawn from the staff for the period of the investigation. At some point in July Kovalev retired from the post of FSB director, and Putin was appointed. I remember back then asking: ‘ Sasha, is this good or bad?’ He said: ‘We don’t even know who he is.’ In the end it became clear that no one was going to seriously examine the question of the attempt on Berezovsky’s life. And then the matter of their coming out into the open at the press conference came up. That hadn’t been done merely for Berezovsky’s sake. Sash was so unhappy that the corruption in the FSB was ruining the image of the regular officers who were genuinely trying to prevent crime. Looking at it from my woman’s point of view, I got angry: ‘What is all this? It’s dangerous for our family, and no one knows how it will end.’ But Sasha had already developed this position which bordered on teenage stubbornness – ‘If I don’t do it, who will?'”
He didn’t ask your advice?
“No. But even if he had asked me, in the end he would have done it all his own way anyway. I realized it was going to be something serious, and I could have distanced myself, but I decided I would stick with him. Sasha was not just my husband, he was also my friend. And even if he couldn’t initiate me into all of his doings, he knew he would have my support. And I could always turn my back on him and know that that would be my protection.”
When you did you learn about the press conference?
“The day before. They spent the night away from home as they were afraid they might be arrested. After the press conference was over, there was the shock, of course, but they weren’t arrested either the next day or the day after that. This atmosphere of silent anxiety, a sense of danger, set in. First they remained suspended, then they started to be dismissed, and in order not to end up without work they got jobs at the place where Berezovsky worked as the government representative for the CIS. At the same time Sasha told me: ‘Marina, you must be prepared for the fact that they will either kill me in a doorway somewhere or put me in prison.’ I was terrified: ‘Sasha, how can tell me this?’ And he replied: ‘I’m telling you what will happen, and you can take it as you want to.'”
[to be continued]
See also: Conversation