Police in Britain and Russia launched separate inquiries into the multimillionaire Boris Berezovsky yesterday after he disclosed to the Guardian that he was plotting a "revolution" to overthrow President Vladimir Putin, the Guardian reported.
In Moscow, where investigators said they were opening a criminal investigation into the tycoon's calls for the use of force to secure regime change, infuriated government ministers demanded that he be stripped of his refugee status and extradited to stand trial, the paper reported.
In London, detectives from Scotland Yard's counterterrorism command began studying recordings of the Berezovsky interview after they were posted on the Guardian Unlimited Web site. They are looking to see whether he has committed any offence and to establish whether there are grounds to revoke his refugee status.
In Washington state department officials were also known to be studying the businessman's repeated assertions that force must be used to get rid of Putin.
In comments which appeared to be calculated to enrage the Kremlin, Berezovsky told the Guardian: "We need to use force to change this regime. It isn't possible to change this regime through democratic means. There can be no change without force, pressure."
He added that he was in contact with like-minded people within Russia's ruling inner circle, offering advice, finance, and "my understanding of how it could be done." Asked if he was effectively fomenting a revolution, he replied: "You are absolutely correct, absolutely correct."
Yesterday Berezovsky was quoted by the Bloomberg news agency as saying: "I am calling for revolution and revolution is always violent." The Associated Press reported that the tycoon added: "I don't know how it will happen, but authoritarian regimes only collapse by force."
Later he appeared to be anxious to retreat from that position, issuing a statement in which he said he was seeking a "bloodless" revolution. "I do support direct action, I do not advocate or support violence," he said.
It appeared to be too late, however, with officials in Britain and Russia already determined to investigate his comments.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "The police will be looking at the statements he has made in the Guardian and elsewhere."