THE EXILED Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky appears to have hanged himself in the bathroom of his Ascot home, according to the results of a post-mortem examination released last night.
Speculation over the cause of the 67-year-old's death has raged for two days, with some suggesting the vehement critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin may have been murdered.
But a statement released by Thames Valley police last night said a Home Office pathologist had found "the cause of death is consistent with hanging". There were no signs of a violent struggle, the statement added. Samples have been sent for further tests tests for any traces of poison.
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Friends of Berezovsky continued to insist yesterday that the tycoon would not have taken his own life. Nikolai Glushkov, a former deputy director of the Russian airline Aeroflot and one of Berezovsky's closest friends in the UK, told The Times: "I don't agree that it was suicide. I don't accept it at all."
There is little sympathy for Berezovsky on the streets of Russia or in the Russian media. The BBC says many ordinary Russians consider the fortunes amassed by men like Berezovsky after the collapse of the Soviet Union to be ill-gotten gains. "With the help of their political connections, the tycoons became super-rich at a time when so many Russians had slid into poverty," it says.
That view has been reflected in the Russian media where the 67-year-old has been described as "a master of chaos" and a "giant spider". The pro-Kremlin newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda described Berezovsky as having been "clever, cunning, resourceful... a talented mathematician who became the great schemer".
To the tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets, Berezovsky was like a "giant spider who managed to entangle so many top officials in his web". The paper described him as an "incredibly talented man who played the role of an evil genius in the 1990s".
Novaya Gazeta, a paper that is often critical of the Kremlin, said the tycoon saw Russia as a "chess board", but one on which he was the only player allowed to move the pieces.
The finding by the Home Office pathologist that Berezovsky's injuries were consistent with hanging is unlikely to end speculation over the cause of his death. He was the third businessman from the former USSR to die in suspicious circumstances here, all them living in comfort in close proximity.
Russian supergrass Alexander Perepilichnyy died less than 10 miles away from Berezovsky's Ascot mansion while jogging last year and his death remains unexplained. Berezovsky's former business partner, Badri Patarkatsishvili, died 15 miles away in 2008. A pathologist concluded that he died of heart disease.
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