Russian Oligarch and Sharp Critic of Putin Dies Near London

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(Bertrand Langlois/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN @ The New York Times Company

MOSCOW — Boris A. Berezovsky, once the richest and most powerful of the so-called oligarchs who dominated post-Soviet Russia, and a close ally of Boris N. Yeltsin who helped install Vladimir V. Putin as president but later exiled himself to London after a bitter falling out with the Kremlin, died Saturday.

A spokesman for Mr. Putin said that Mr. Berezovsky had recently sent a letter asking President Putin for forgiveness and permission to return to Russia. “Some time ago, maybe a couple of months, Berezovsky sent Vladimir Putin a letter, written by himself, in which he admitted that he had made a lot of mistakes,” the spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said on the Russia 24 television channel. “He asked Putin for forgiveness for the errors to be able to return home.”

Mr. Peskov said that he did not know Mr. Putin’s reaction, but that “news of anyone’s death, no matter what kind of person they were, cannot arouse any positive emotions.”The Thames Valley police in Berkshire, England, about an hour outside London, issued a statement on Saturday saying that they were investigating the “unexplained” death of a 67-year-old man in Ascot, a town near one of Britain’s most storied racetracks and one of its top golf courses.

The police statement did not name Mr. Berezovsky, but British news reports said an investigation was under way at his home.

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