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Berezovsky Is No Longer Berezovsky

It's official. Boris Abramovich Berezovsky is now Platon Ilyich Yelenin.

Britain said it has issued documents allowing the wealthy businessman who is wanted in Russia on fraud charges to travel under the new identity.

"Boris Berezovsky ... submitted a statutory declaration formally changing his name to Platon Yelenin, and the Immigration and Nationality Directorate issued a travel document, in accordance with the provisions of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, in that name," Home Secretary David Blunkett said Thursday, according to The Associated Press.

Berezovsky has been living in self-imposed exile in Britain since 2000. Russian prosecutors tried to extradite him to face multimillion-dollar fraud charges, but a London court threw out the case in September when it learned that the British government had granted him asylum.

Berezovsky said Sunday that the new travel documents with Platon Yelenin's name were issued in October at his own request.

"So officially I am now Platon Yelenin, although for any public appearances or contacts with the press I am still Boris Berezovsky," Berezovsky said by telephone from London.

He refused to comment on whether the change in name affected the status of any of his assets.

He said Platon Ilyich Yelenin is a combination of the first name of the hero of a novel and film based on his life; the patronymic of Vladimir Lenin, who lived in exile in Britain before the 1917 Revolution; and the name of his wife, Yelena.

Boris Berezovsky first became known as Platon Yelenin late last year when he flew into Georgia under the new identity for a quick visit. The trip prompted Moscow to issue a sharp protest to Tbilisi that it had failed to detain a wanted criminal suspect.

Berezovsky said he also has used the travel documents to visit Israel.

It was unclear Sunday whether Russia would seek Berezovsky's arrest by putting his new name on an international wanted list. But trouble is brewing in London over the decision to issue the new travel documents.

Blunkett's confirmation of the new identity came in response to a written question in the House of Commons from opposition shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram.

"This answer raises more questions than it answers. I will be making further inquiries about the way in which the Foreign Office deals with applications of this kind," Ancram told AP.

Berezovsky cannot enter Russia even under the new name without losing the political refugee status granted by Britain, which ruled he may face persecution at home.

But should he need to change his name again, he already has one picked out.

"Then I'll change my name to Vladimir Putin," he said. "If they [Russian authorities] are going to have some fun, I'll also have same fun, so they will be looking for Vladimir Putin all over the world."

(The Moscow Times 26.i.04)

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