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November 24, 2006

Murdered Litvinenko accused Putin of killing Politkovskaya (Video)

Last month, Alexander Litvinenko accused Vladimir Putin of personally ordering the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya. (Video clip, Full panel discussion on the death of Politkovskaya). In the clip, Litvinenko states that he was a friend of Politkovskaya and that she sought his advice about her personal safety before her death. He says only Vladimir Putin himself could have authorized a hit on a journalist or dissident of her political stature. Litvinenko went to the police after Politkoskaya's death, a few days later, the police arrested him and seized all the relevant evidence from his home.

Litvinenko, a former colonel in the Federal Security Service (the successor to the KGB) was living as a political exile in Britain at the time of his death. He died of radiation poisoning. On his deathbed, he accused Putin of orchestrating his murder.


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"It is a great pity that even such tragic things as human death are used for political provocations."

Words are indeed cheap.

FoxNews Flash:

Crusader for democracy murdered by terrorist rogue nation with radioactive weapons of mass destruction in England. Oh wait, wrong enemy, nevermind. Nothing to see here, go about your business. Bush has already looked into Putin's eyes and got a sense of his soul. Apparently Bush found this murderer sympatico.

According to the NYT's article, Litvinenko was killed with highly concentrated Polonium (more than a billion times more toxic than cyanide). Polonium, according to the Wikipedia, was used by Russia to heat its Lunokhod lunar rovers back in the 1970's.

I have read (cannot remember where) that poisoning is the killer of choice for the Russian government/secret service. The poor man.


I should say, shame twice on the murderers, and there's little doubt about who they are. When they say "be careful what you wish for, you just might get it," they might well have meant that you might get to continue waging a pointless war of destruction in Chechnya that leaves the place a charnel house, and that no-one in your press corps or secret service will have any longer a sense of honor, of truth, or of what's best for your country. But Russia's lunatic government seems to have no thought about that at all. They call it "target fixation," when a pilot is so fixated upon his or her quarry that he or she ignores the existential threat bearing down upon him or her.

True Brendan, one method of many for them.

I'm very curious about why the assassins chose this particular poison. Not only was the bizarre nature of the hit guaranteed to get the maximum press, but a rare radioactive toxin fairly screams "Russian state-sanctioned murder". Modern states, especially faux democracies, are supposed to be more concerned about their public images than that. Maybe Putin has just decided he's untouchable enough within his own system now that he can afford to spread around a little terror.

Cass - could be that this is intended to send a very clear signal to Putin's enemies. An assassination that looked like an accident (easy enough to rig with the resources of the KGB) wouldn't have the required chilling effect. The hit has to be both obviously connected to Putin and deniable enough that most people won't raise a rucus.

That's the most obvious interpretation. I'm just amazed at how audacious it all seems.

Putin can afford to be audacious. Thousands of nuclear warheads make Russia militarily untouchable and high oil and gas prices make it economically untouchable. Putin finally paid off the debt he inherited from Gorbachev and Yeltsin, and the collapse of North Sea oil and gas production since it peaked in 1999 makes all of Europe completely dependent on Russia.

On the domestic front, the halving of the poverty rate since he took power has made Putin very popular with the Russian people, who generally despise the pro-Western reformers who facilitated the looting of the country by the oligarchs in the 90's. Putin's arms deals with countries hostile to the West, his hardball tactics in pipeline negotiations in Central Asia, and his crackdown on the Chechens have won him the support of the Army and the FSB, many of whom yearn for a return to the day when the world feared Russia.

The simple fact of the matter is that Putin can do what he wants within Russia and to dissident Russians abroad and the world will just have to put up with it. Democracy failed in Russia because it was accompanied by Friedmanite economic reforms that nearly destroyed the Russian civilization, and so, Putin, with the support of his people, has rejected both democracy and the ruinous economic policies that democracy brought. It is time for liberals in the West to write off Russian democracy and instead work towards peaceful co-existence with an autocratic government.

>Not only was the bizarre nature of the hit guaranteed to get the maximum press,

Putin and Russia do indeed seem to have the power and influence that Jay suggests. As to the press, he may be less concerned about the world press, since he's lately clamped down so hard on his domestic press that I would say there is no free press in Russia at the moment (Anna Politkovskaya's newspaper would be the exception, but of course, since she was killed, we can't say that).

Another possibility is that while Putin didn't mind the killing, it wasn't directed by him. The TV news reported today that Litvinenko, before he died, had named the agent responsible for killing Politkovskaya. Politkovskaya had been threatened by Special Forces units before she died, and very badly treated by them. Putin was certainly angered by her reporting on Chechnya, but it's possible that the initiative for this mistreatment, and the two murders, came from within the units themselves.

"Another possibility is that while Putin didn't mind the killing, it wasn't directed by him."

Along those lines, it could have been done to push Putin. Extreme elements in Russian intelligence could have done it in such a way that Russia would be blamed, hence Putin would be blamed. If he is going to be blamed for using such extreme methods, he might as well use such extreme methods.

Or maybe it's just a really bad case of Thomas Becket syndrome.

Looks like the Russian enemies of James Bond might make a comeback.

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