Russia seeks 9-year jail term for tycoon Berezovsky

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MOSCOW, Oct 22 (Reuters) Russian prosecutors asked a court today to hand a nine-year prison term to Boris Berezovsky, a Russian tycoon and Kremlin opponent being tried in absentia on embezzlement and money laundering charges, news agencies said.

Berezovsky, who lives in London, was charged earlier this year of embezzling funds from the Aeroflot airline, whose shares he held in the mid-1990s, and of laundering money. He is being tried in absentia in a Moscow district court.

Berezovsky has rejected the charges and refused to cooperate with the court, saying the trial is politicised.

''The prosecutor spoke in court today and asked (it) to sentence Berezovsky to nine years in prison,'' the agencies quoted Berezovsky's lawyer Alexander Dudkin as saying.

''The prosecution believes that all charges against Berezovsky have been confirmed in court.'' Britain has repeatedly rejected Russia's demands to extradite Berezovsky to stand trial in Moscow -- one of several irritants that have soured relations between London and Moscow. Prosecutors decided to go ahead with his trial regardless.

Berezovsky, one of a handful magnates who made billions of dollars in the turmoil of post-Communism reforms, was an influential political figure in Russia until he fell out with President Vladimir Putin in the early 2000s.

From London, Berezovsky later accused Putin of dismantling democracy in Russia.

The Kremlin, in turn, accuses him of attempting to undermine Russia's political stability and says he has close links with separatist rebels in Chechnya.

Reuters AE DB2041

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