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PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 February, 2008, 12:00am

Dawn breaks over a Russian emigre neighbourhood in London. A balding man with stately features sits on a plush red divan in one of the flats. He lights a contemplative cigarette in the quiet and you can almost feel the weight of his thoughts as they play behind his lowered gaze.

This could be a scene with the character Semyon from David Cronenberg's masterfully mordant Russian mob film Eastern Promises, except the man in question has larger fish to fry than keeping his son's homosexuality under wraps.

Boris Berezovsky (pictured; left), possibly the richest refugee in Britain, is a real-life oligarch and is featured in Patrick Forbes' Russian Godfathers: The Fugitive (BBC World; Saturday at 4.10pm), episode one in a three-part series examining the intersection of money and power on the country's post-proletariat political stage from the point of view of its preposterously wealthy.

Episode two, The Prisoner, looks at jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky (centre) and episode three, The Politician, focuses on Yury Luzhkov (right), billionaire mayor of Moscow. They can be seen on February 16 and February 23, respectively.

'Russian politics,' says Berezovsky, 'is like Russian roulette.'

The uber-rich businessman has survived several assassination attempts, one of which involved a car bomb that decapitated his driver. Berezovsky can only travel between Britain and Israel, where he has citizenship - anywhere else would be unwise. On his vast estate in the town of Egham, Surrey, protected 24 hours a day by ex-French Foreign Legion bodyguards, he plots the downfall of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the man he helped into power less than 10 years ago.

Russian Godfathers brings into focus the mixed fortunes of those smart, ruthlessly ambitious few who benefited from Russia's transformation to capitalism. In the case of Khodorkovsky, it has led to prison. Serving a 10-year sentence for fraud and tax evasion in prison camp No 13 in Krasnokamensk, Siberia, he is gaining popularity as an outspoken critic of the government. In August 2005, he announced he would run for parliament.

The splendid tradition of melodramatic Russian political manoeuvrings can be a tough act to top, but this month - and happily many months hence - HBO shows its teeth by launching a marathon of one of the US' most popular mobster dramas. That's right, The Sopranos are back, all six seasons, starting this week (HBO; Monday, 11pm) with two back-to-back episodes.

With multiple family and Family responsibilities, Anthony 'Tony' Soprano (James Gandolfini) is facing a midlife crisis. He is a fierce though loving father to two children (Jamie-Lynn Sigler as Meadow, Robert Iler as Anthony Jnr), husband to smart and outspoken wife Carmela (Edie Falco), devoted son to his widowed mother, Livia (Nancy Marchand, Lou Grant), and the dedicated boss of a 'waste management consultant' business.

After suffering a series of anxiety attacks, Tony seeks the help of Dr Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco, Goodfellas). But for a soon-to-be mob boss, therapy can have serious consequences.

With a pedigree cast dotted with mafia-movie alumni from the likes of Goodfellas and The Godfather, the award-winning show is the perfect blend of comic irony and mafia fantasy. While Russian Godfathers will make you think twice about crossing a oligarch, The Sopranos will give your Monday night a good, old-fashioned shakedown for months to come.