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    Thursday, May 24, 2007

    Litvinenko, Lugovoi and the KGB coup

    The British government's announcement that it wants to charge ex-KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi in Alexander Litvinenko's murder - and the Kremlin's decision not to extradite him - is further proof (as if any more were required) of what Russia has become under Vladimir Putin: a rogue state that no longer cares what the West thinks of it. One apparently capable of carrying out spectacular political assassinations in other countries, and then of ignoring the international community's demands that the alleged killers face justice.

    Even if Putin himself didn't order the Litvinenko hit, someone else with close ties to the KGB/FSB apparatus almost certainly did. You don't just buy Polonium-210 from a pharmacy, even in Russia. Nor do you keep it in a drawer for years after you leave your KGB job. It's entirely reasonable to assume that the Kremlin knows who did this.

    If Putin didn't order the hit, it's almost as disturbing as if he did because it means that he has little control over what the security apparatus does at home or abroad. His unwilligness to hand Lugovoi over to the British police (who are not known for politically motivated prosecutions, despite Lugovoi's protests) suggests that he's either complicit in the killing, or that his hands are tied in the matter. Both versions are chilling.

    There's no making light of this one. Litvinenko's killing not only silenced a prominent Putin critic, but the chosen method put any Londoner who happened to frequent the same restaurant or hotel as Litvinenko at grave risk. (I myself have stayed at the Millennium Mayfair hotel, albeit months later.)

    The whole episode hammers home the truth of the 2000 elections that brought Vladimir Putin to power. This was not the "peaceful transition" that the Western media hailed it to be at the time. It was a quiet, efficient KGB coup.

    Boris Yeltsin, whose corruption in office had long since compromised the principles he once fought for, was forced aside by the KGB that he dismantled and then reformed under a new name. He sold the country that he had helped liberate back to those he had liberated it from in exchange for immunity from prosecution for he and his family.

    Putin brought with him to the Kremlin a phalanx of other KGB agents (I've dropped the "ex-" bit here since even Putin had admitted that once a chekist, always a chekist, referring to the original incarnation of the Soviet security services, the Cheka). Sociologist Olga Kryshtanovskaya says that the percentage of siloviki or "men of power" (which she defines as those from police, military or security services backgrounds) in positions of influence in the Kremlin increased from less than 5 per cent in Mikhail Gorbachev's day to almost 55 per cent by the end of Putin's first term. That figure has continued to rise.

    With them, they brought back the old assumptions: Russia is a global power that has the right to a "sphere of influence" over its neighbours and whose interests are fundamentally opposed to the West. They also apparently brought with them the old Soviet habit of violently eliminating dissent.

    Litvinenko understood what had happened and tried to tell the world. An old agent himself, he understood that in doing so he had broken the KGB code. To the unreformed chekists in the Kremlin, that meant he had to be punished appropriately.


    Anonymous said...

    Hi Mark,

    Could you inform me about why the "traditional" opposition parties such as Yabloko and SPS do not support the opposition activities carried out by the Kasparov lead Grazhdanskiy Front and the Kasyanov lead RNDS?

    I haven't seen any link pointed to their web pages from Rufront, RNDS or from any other related site.

    And one more question. Is Oborona the only opposition youth movement or it's just the most powerful?
    I saw the organization called SMENA. But on their web page they didn't publish anything since 25th march. Do they still exist or they united with Oborona?

    Zoltan Suranyi

    Anonymous said...

    "An old agent himself, he understood that in doing so he had broken the KGB code."

    First of all he has broken the code of law and morality. No one in western media has ever noted the fact that he was prosecuted in Russia not for being "dissident" or being "fierce critic of Putin". Before fleeing to London he was arrested on the criminal charges. He used his KGB (FSB at that time) belonging for blackmailing businessmen. He was in custody for some time, but than he was released on the security of a written undertaking not to leave territory of the Russian Federation. Do you think he would have been released in case KGB wanted to eliminate him? Bullshit. That would have been an excellent opportunity. It would have been cheaper than to spend millions of dollars on pollonium.
    What he was doing in London was just the attempt to justify his status of political refugee. And he was perfect in this role because it was all his nature - to be provocateur. He played his role in Russia, then he played the same role in London.

    The problem of the western "free press" is that there is no options to choose from. The only position is that Litvinenko was a "fierce critic of Kremlin" while in Russia we have all the range of opinions to choose from. We have expertise from different sources - Kremlin, Russian, British, Chechen? Canadian. And you have a "free press" but no choise.

    Unfortunately absolute majority (I guess 90%) of your readers do not read Russian. In the Russian articles about Litvinenko there are a lot of logical sence, much more than in the western sources. Mark, If you want to be unbiased you should give your readers the opportunity to read alternative versions of the events you are describing. Translate some articles for them. Give them the opportunity to think themselves.

    Anonymous said...

    And also take a look at this:

    You know why Berezovsky is sure that Lugovoy will be killed? I'll tell you. As soon is Lugovoy is eleminated, the only live person who could shed the light on the Litvinenko case will be Berezovsky himself. But he'll never tell you the truth.