It would seem so.”
The question was addressed to Alexander Borodin, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, whose family business, Russia Railways, was founded by Mikhail P. Borodin. “Mr. Deputy Prime Minister, what is Russian roulette?”
Borodin’s face had a blank look. His answer: “We have to kill each other,” he said.
Borodin became an associate of Alexander Chernyshev, a billionaire tycoon who runs Russia’s largest telecommunications company, Russia Mobile. Borodin was one of the first Russian oligarchs to invest in the Ukrainian telecoms market. Chernyshev has emerged as a political power broker for the regime of President Vladimir Putin, backing his allies in Russia’s parliament. “Borodin can do business abroad and influence state decision-making,” Chernyshev said in a telephone interview. “We’re talking about the future of Russia.”
Borodin’s fortunes went south in Russia. The price of gas, which he relied on to keep Russia afloat, collapsed. After a series of stock market crashes in early 2011, the tycoon fell behind in his debts and was forced out of Russia. After a bankruptcy proceeding in 2010, he and Russian mobile tycoon Mikhail Fridman, a close friend of Borodin’s at Moscow State University, moved to Germany, where Borodin owns the most popular mobile phone company.
As Fridman’s fortune continued to tumble, Borodin’s Russian business collapsed. He has become embroiled in legal wrangling about his offshore companies. Last May, he became the latest billionaire businessman to be arrested and tried in Russian courts after the authorities said they suspected him of trying to buy a state asset in order to evade taxes; he and his lawyer said he simply wanted to transfer assets from his family business overseas.
“Borodin is a smart businessman who is one of the few Russians who have been spared the roulette wheel,” said Anton Herasym, an analyst at the Center for Development Policy. “But he has no real ambition to be rich and is no longer in the game.”
A spokesman for the International Monetary Fund said, “We are deeply concerned by recent news related to a Russian entrepreneur who has used company assets, including foreign bank accounts, to facilitate his purchase of real assets in Ukraine.”
Despite the arrest warrants for Borodin’s father and Fridman, Russia’s courts still refuse to
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