mafia power play
Anzor KikalishviliAnzor Kikalishvili:  A Russian  businessman and aspiring politician, he is  a friend of NHL superstar Pavel Bure.  According to the FBI, U.S. and Russian law enforcement believe Kikalishvili is the co-head of a Russian organized crime organization. He has been banned from travel to the U.S.
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There have been a lot of reports that Russian hockey players have been bothered by criminals, that there has been extortion. Have you heard about this? And have you personally been able to do anything to stop this?

You have to remember what type of time this was. It's no secret that this was a time of rapid criminal growth in the country and that to our country came the rackets and extortion to pay people off. And these criminal elements were attracted to Russian hockey clubs. But, as far as the concrete facts, the concrete facts much of which is not written, this is not a serious threat anymore and has no influence on hockey players in the NHL. This was a growing up period in our country in which we have gotten over, thank God. I myself am an honest person by my upbringing, will only do the proper and law abiding methods in regards to a contract, a true contract for hockey players who decide to play and live where they choose. . .

Where did you get your interest in sports?

I would like to ask the Americans--why a person who can help both our countries is being blacklisted?  Time heals everything. My first love of sports came from my father, who loved to play soccer, he played for the Soviet Army. I myself, played for Black Sea Navy team. When I finished my time in the service I went to work for the Moscow Central Youth Komsomol and, there, they gave me the higher position of coordinating all youth-oriented sports in the city of Moscow.

That is where I met many young athletes and hockey players including, Pavel Bure who was sixteen at the time, and captain of his team. He was the star scoring the most goals of all the rising young stars in the country. So sports for me is not only an interest but is my professional career, and today there is nothing like it left in Russia, something that can represent the entire country. The role of sports especially for the likes of the young phenoms like Pavel helps to raise the hopes of the nation, and raises the spirit of the nation, because the spirit of the nation today is very, very low.

Pavel [Bure] is special, but how many of the other Russian hockey players do you know and talk to and care about as much as Pavel?

Pavel in my opinion is not only a great hockey player but a world-class sportsman, hockey player. For Russia, he is more than a sportsman, he is a symbol for the New Russia. . . As far as other hockey players I know, I have known many famous players during my lengthy hockey career. . .

There is a legend that you once saved Alexander Mogilny, is that true?

I knew him from the days of the hockey federation school. . . As far as saving Alexander Mogilny's life, no, that really never happened, but if I have helped him on any other career way then I'm very glad. . .

But the story I heard was that when he defected to the West he was sentenced to death and it was the intervention of important people like you that got the sentence lifted.

Yes, that's true. But don't forget that this was not an ordinary matter, it was like desertion, running away and that, being from the military, he would have to answer to the appropriate charges. This did occur, but I don't want to get into too many details or names. It was a different time back then, it was also a stormy time, when Gorbachev was in power and we looked at the good and the bad objectives of the situation. And so to Gorbachev I sent a letter asserting that in order [to prevent further defections to the NHL] that it would be better to do this legally and properly. Pavel Bure was in fact the first, he did not defect, but left legally with a contract. Pavel Bure and Slava Fetisov -- they were the first who really opened the door for the rest of the hockey players. . .

How would you describe the 21st Century Association?

The 21st Century Association was one of the first products of Perestroika under Gorbachev. We were one of the first free organizations that existed at that time. It was the first organization that was not under government control. . . With the blessing of the government, I was given this project as an experiment. We dealt with all aspects of Culture, Sport, Tourism and Youth. All these areas for me were very close to my own professional career involvement. . . From day one it was a non-profit organization. . . Today the 21st Century is a corporation, a conglomerate holding company that is now building some three million square meters of apartment buildings in Moscow.

What can you say of the controversy surrounding the 21st Century Association? Is it a front for illegal activities and organized crime?

You must understand that the 21st Century Association started under the political upheaval period under Gorbachev. There was a reform movement which I brought up and there was a more Conservative movement under the KGB. The KGB could not formally repress our reform ideas . . . They spread rumors to which I didn't take any notice. Today I am a professional politician who is not out to put things into people's minds or to put something over on them. Today I will be going to court to explain in judicial language to disprove and refute these rumors and to have everything put into its right place. These rumors are not a serious matter, they spread unfounded rumors of dirty dealings in regards to the 21st Century Association.

bure with kikalishvili Hasn't Pavel Bure's name been linked to these Association rumors?

I must say that Pavel Bure's name is clean, if there was any blemish on our organizations name we could never have been able to accomplish what we did. We even asked Pavel himself to go directly to the ministries involved, the ones that control immigration cultural affairs and to ask the question to leave properly and he did that. . . These rumors of wrongdoing are nonsense and why they keep persisting, I do not understand. This is all politics. Today from all this I am sure our people, our nation knows perfectly well what the 21st Century Association is, who Anzor is, and these other people, well, they just talk about their own ideas and stories. We have no association with this.

Today because of the reputation of the 21st Century Association, you are excluded from the United States, what can you do to recover from that?

Well, you know this is just more than a misunderstanding. I believe that the American authorities that are responsible for entry visas, that they today are sorry in their dealings with me by not giving me a visa. I am a person who was one of the first propagandists for an open society here, one who helped in the integration with other Western countries and with Europe. . .

Four years ago I wrote to President Clinton in which I expressed my opinions in this very matter, and I think that four years has been plenty of time for this to be resolved. . . Today my friend Pavel Bure is living and playing in America, and for people to say bad things about my friends and about rumors of my friends saying bad things about me is not only impolite, untruthful and improper, but it does nothing to help everyone in the sphere of world politics.

Whom do you blame for this bad reputation and rumors?

I can't even tell you whom for sure or even what country. Let me explain. In my opinion what happened was that information was sent by our agencies (KGB) to the American agencies (CIA etc.) -- information and agencies trying to get the better of one another. If there was no secret information, then there would be no need for these agencies. It's a front to show fictitious stories and numbers in order to try and impress each other's governments. . .

So, who is to blame: America? Russia? Who knows. . . What information or reasons does the FBI have to classify me as an undesirable for entry into their country? If there is any information, I am willing at anytime to answer any questions. Every person should have the right to know. If this is because of the accusation in Puerto Rico, consorting with criminal elements, then there is nothing really to say. I myself know where I went and what I did. If I have any links to criminal elements, then I would not be sitting in this office today, an office, which is only 100 meters from the Kremlin, the President of our country. All these windows and doors are always under scrutiny. If I am not involved in any wrongdoing for my own country, then how am I involved in wrongdoing for another country? . . . I would like to ask the Americans-- why a person who can help both our countries is being blacklisted? Time heals everything.

Thank you very much for making your opinion so strongly.

You're welcome, this is the first time that I have had to voice my opinions in an interview on this situation. I have read about these rumors and mistakes but did not really take them seriously. . .

Do you think that you'll be the President of Russia someday?

Yes, possibly. I am a member of a political club that will put forth a candidate for the Presidency of Russia. Today we have a large group of some 131 different people. The Presidential campaign is not yet under way. Yeltsin still has a full one year term left. I feel I don't have to criticize today's President. Let us see what the future brings.

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