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A Russian exile who was close friends with the late oligarch Boris Berezovsky has been found dead in his London home, according to friends.
Nikolai Glushkov, 68, was discovered by his family and friends late on Monday night. The cause of death is not yet clear. One of his friends, the newspaper editor Damian Kudryavtsev, posted the news on his Facebook page.
Without confirming the man's name, the Metropolitan police said the counter-terrorism command unit was leading the investigation into the death "as a precaution because of associations that the man is believed to have had".
It said there was no evidence at present to suggest a link to poisoning in Salisbury of the Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. The Skripals remain in a critical condition.
Police were called by the London ambulance service to a residential address in New Malden at 10.46pm on Monday. "An investigation is under way following the death of a man in his 60s in Kingston borough," said the Met.
On Tuesday a cluster of blue tents had been erected to cover the front of Glushkov's house and several uniformed police stood in front of a cordon.
Glushkov's neighbours painted a picture of a man living a quiet life in south-west London, where he had recently been recovering from an operation.
Ako Mohammed, who runs a barber shop near Glushkov's home, said the Russian had last come in more than a fortnight ago.
"He was using crutches and had just had an operation on his leg," he said. "He used to come in every month or so. He was in last about two or three weeks ago and asked us how business was."
Kate Fitzsimmons, 87, who has lived on the street for more than 30 years, said Glushkov would occasionally wave and smile to her when he came out of his house, directly across from hers. "He seemed like a quiet man. A lady would come sometimes as well but he kept to himself generally."
In the 1990s Glushkov was a director of the state airline Aeroflot and Berezovsky's LogoVAZ car company. In 1999, as Berezovsky fell out with Vladimir Putin and fled to the UK, Glushkov was charged with money laundering and fraud. He spent five years in jail and was freed in 2004. Fearing further arrest, he fled to the UK and was granted political asylum.
In 2011 he gave evidence in a court case brought by Berezovsky against fellow oligarch Roman Abramovich, who remained on good terms with the Kremlin. Glushkov told the court he had effectively been taken hostage by Putin's administration, which wanted to pressure Berezovsky to sell his stake in the TV station ORT.
In court, Berezovsky claimed he and Abramovich had been partners in the 1990s in an oil firm, Sibneft, and accused the Chelsea football club owner of cheating him out of $5bn (£3.2bn). Abramovich denied this. The judge, Mrs Justice Gloster, rejected the claim and described Berezovsky as "deliberately dishonest".
Glushkov was unhappy with the judgment and launched a formal appeal, citing "bias". Meanwhile, Berezovsky disappeared from public life. In March 2013 he was found dead at his ex-wife's home in Berkshire. Police said they believed he killed himself but his friends were not so certain, and a coroner recorded an open verdict.
Speaking to the Guardian in 2013, Glushkov said he was sceptical that Berezovsky, who was found hanged in a bathroom, took his own life. "I'm definite Boris was killed. I have quite different information from what is being published in the media," he said.
He noted that a large number of Russian exiles, including Berezovsky and Alexander Litvinenko, had died under mysterious circumstances. "Boris was strangled. Either he did it himself or with the help of someone. [But] I don't believe it was suicide," Glushkov said. "Too many deaths [of Russian emigres] have been happening."
Glushkov continued to investigate the circumstances surrounding Berezovsky's death for some months. He conceded that in the period before his friend's death they had quarrelled. In 2013 Glushkov emailed a friend: "I have a lot of new facts that are of great interest."
Glushkov has two adult children, Natasha and Dima, and an ex-wife who lives in Moscow. It is understood he had split in recent years from a partner, although they remained on good terms. Natasha is based in the UK.
In 2017, during a trial in absentia in Russia, Glushkov was sentenced to eight years in prison for stealing $123m from Aeroflot. The airline pursued the case in London. Glushkov had been defending himself, and told friends he had run out of money to hire lawyers. He was due to attend a hearing at 10.30am on Monday in the Rolls building, London's commercial court, but failed to show up.
The Met said the next of kin had been informed. "Whilst we believe we know the identity of the deceased, formal identification is yet to take place," the force said. "The death is currently being treated as an unexplained."
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