Berezovsky's girlfriend casts doubt on suicide

MOSCOW (AFP) - The 23-year-old girlfriend of the late Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky said on Monday that she did not believe he had killed himself and that they had been planning to go to Israel on holiday together days after he was found dead.

In an interview with liberal weekly New Times, Ms Katerina Sabirova said she did not believe that Mr Berezovsky, 67, whom she first met four years ago, would have killed himself, and that in their last conversation a day before his death, his voice "had sounded better than usual". Mr Berezovsky, 67, was found on March 23 in the bathroom of a mansion outside London and a postmortem found that he had been hanged and that there was no evidence of a struggle.

"He was definitely planning to come to Israel on Monday (March 25). I know that for sure," she told the magazine and gave them a printout of her air ticket to Tel Aviv.

"He had big plans" of going to the Dead Sea, she said, adding that he had been down but that she had not believed he was suicidal.

Mr Berezovsky "used to say: 'Imagine if I'm not around, all the problems will go away,' but this wasn't a guide to action, I could not and cannot imagine that he could do this. It's very hard to believe this," Ms Sabirova said.

Mr Berezovsky was due to meet her at Tel Aviv airport's VIP lounge, after flying out with his bodyguard Avi, she said. He had proposed the trip on March 18, as Ms Sabirova's British visa had run out.

The magazine printed a photograph of Ms Sabirova, a pretty brunette, with Mr Berezovsky, his arm around her shoulder. Friends of Mr Berezovsky confirmed that they were in a long-term relationship, it said.

When she came to a Moscow restaurant for the interview "heads turned," the magazine wrote.

Ms Sabirova also confirmed that Mr Berezovsky had discussed with her his letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking for forgiveness, whose existence was revealed after Mr Berezovsky's death by President Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

"He said that he did not see another way (to return to Russia) than to bow down," she said, adding that she saw a draft and inferred that Mr Berezovsky sent it in November.

Friends of Mr Berezovsky concurred that he had been extremely depressed after losing a multi-million-pound court battle against fellow oligarch Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea football club, last year.

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