Controversial tycoon Boris Berezovsky was seen with men and women in white coats last week, but it had nothing to do with the hepatitis currently ailing him.
The medical atmosphere went with the occasion - the start of the Flying Hospital's mission to Russia, an undertaking sponsored by Berezovsky and oil company Sibneft.
The Flying Hospital, a humanitarian organization based in the United States, is everything its name suggests - a fully equipped airborne surgical facility manned by an international team of volunteer doctors and nurses.
The Russian mission, initiated by Berezovsky in June, will cover five cities - Krasnoyarsk and Bratsk in Siberia, Mineralniye Vody in the North Caucasus, and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and Vladivostok in the Far East. Over the almost seven weeks it will be here, the Flying Hospital team expects to treat from 4,000 to 6,000 patients, providing a wide range of services from dentistry and the removal of cataracts to neurosurgery.
The Flying Hospital is not completely new to the former Soviet Union. It has already flown missions to Kazakstan and Ukraine. In each case, a sponsor undertakes to finance a mission to a given country and, in coordination with that country's health and other authorities, selects the cities to be visited and the type of aid most needed.
With so many fingers pointing at Berezovsky and fellow "Family" member Sibneft head Roman Abramovich, the more cynically inclined might see this foray into philanthropy as just a well-timed bit of positive image-building.
Speaking at a press conference, Berezovsky dismissed that view, drawing attention to the need to do something today for the millions of people abandoned by the state, especially in the troubled North Caucasus, to which Berezovsky expressed a particular commitment.
Flying Hospital Executive Director Edward Mann had warm words for Berezovsky.
"Dr. Berezovsky is one of the best examples of what it means to be a concerned member of the corporate community and a global citizen," he said.
Officials would not specify the costs of the Russian operation other than to say that it was "several million dollars."
Berezovsky is accused of financing Chechen terrorists, lining his pockets on the back of the country and masterminding Kremlin power games. Still, that does not perturb Mann.
"We are a humanitarian organization, and do not interfere in a country's internal politics," he said. "If someone like Dr. Berezovsky wants to help his own people, then we are honored to provide our services."
The Flying Hospital sees its job not just in treating patients but also in facilitating the exchange of knowledge. As well as four operating tables and 12 beds, the plane is equipped with a "classroom" where operations can be viewed on a screen. The Flying Hospital team will work with Russian doctors and perform some surgery in local clinics.
The idea of a flying hospital is not foreign to Russia. The Emergency Situations Ministry has developed its own airborne medical facilities, though the technology and the basis on which it operates are not exactly the same.
Berezovsky said he hasn't ignored the Russian technology.
"I talked with [Emergency Situations Minister Sergei] Shoigu and he wasn't against the idea," he said. "This mission is an experiment that will enable us to compare different technologies and decide which is most effective for use in Russia."
Sergei Stepashin, who was still prime minister in June when Berezovsky first had the idea of bringing the Flying Hospital to Russia, also gave his support to the mission, and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has continued that support, Berezovsky said.
As the Flying Hospital team began its humanitarian work in Krasnoyarsk, Berezovsky, also present in the Siberian city, appealed for a new ethic amongst businessmen.
"The primary accumulation of capital has dragged out, and society is waiting for capital to repay its debts," ITAR-TASS reported him as saying.