Friday, November 24, 2006


It’s obvious that the Russians wanted former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko silenced. Today, they got their wish:

Mr Litvinenko fell ill after meeting a contact, an Italian journalist, in a sushi restaurant in central London. Dramatic photographs released this week showed him lying in intensive care. His hair had fallen out and his complexion was jaundiced. Last night he suffered a heart attack and doctors said his condition had worsened. Friends and relatives were said to be rushing to his bedside fearing the worst.

Doctors still do not know what caused his illness, although they have said he was poisoned. Initial reports suggested he had been poisoned with thallium, or with a radioactive material, but doctors have now said this was not the case. His friend Oleg Gordievsky, a former high-ranking KGB agent who defected to Britain, said Mr Litvinenko had been killed by two Russian secret agents who poisoned his tea during a meeting at a London hotel. Mr Gordievsky told Sky News: “He was fighting against the evil forces in Russia, against the authorities which are depressing democracy and liberal freedoms in Russia.”

Based on what I’ve read, the Kremlin’s love of control and secrecy played a major role in their poisoning him after they killed Russian reporter Anna Politkovskaya. What’s ironic is that Litvinenko was looking into her murder:

Mr Litvinenko, an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, was probing the murder of Ms Politkovskaya, who had become famous for exposing Russian atrocities in Chechnya. Thirteen journalists have been murdered in Russia since Mr Putin came to power in 2000. None of the cases has been solved.
Two years ago the Russian government denied any part in the poisoning of Viktor Yushchenko, the pro-Western presidential candidate in neighbouring Ukraine. He won the presidency after his pro-Russian rival was accused of trying to rig the elections.

It seems that people that don’t agree with Mr. Putin wind up getting poisoned, which is something that the old Soviet KGB specialized in. Here’s a little glimpse of Ms. Politkovskaya’s view of Putin’s tactics:

She has harsh words for what she sees as the west’s kid-glove treatment of Putin and Russia. “Most of the time they forget the word Chechnya. They only remember it when there’s a terrorist act. And then it’s, ‘Oh!’ And they start their full coverage up again. But virtually nobody reports on what is really going on in that zone, in Chechnya, and the growth of terrorism. The truth is that the methods employed in Putin’s anti-terrorist operation are generating a wave of terrorism the like of which we have never experienced.”
The Bush-Blair “war on terror” has been of enormous help to Putin, Politkovskaya says. Many people in Russia gained perverse comfort from the pictures of US abuses in Abu Ghraib prison. “I’ve heard it many times. In Russia you hear people talking about it with pride: that, ‘We treated the blacks like this before the Americans did, and we were right, because they are international terrorists.’
“Putin’s begun to try to prove on the world stage that he’s also fighting international terrorists, that he’s just a part of this fashionable war. And he’s been successful. He was Blair’s best friend for a while. When, after Beslan, he began to state that we were seeing virtually the hand of Bin Laden, it was appalling. What’s Bin Laden got to do with it? The Russian government created these beasts, brought them up, and they came to Beslan and behaved like beasts.”

Much has been written about President Bush’s consternation at Putin’s attempt to de-democratize Russia and it’s former Soviet bloc countries. This Guardian article simply gives details about how Putin tried exerting his will on neighboring countries. It seems a forgone conclusion that he’d want Ms. Politkovskaya, Mr. Litvinenko dead just like he wanted Viktor Yushchenko dead when Yushchenko chanllenged Putin’s candidate Yanukovych in Ukraine’s elections in 2004.

The Orange Revolution is the first big news event I wrote about when I started blogging. Putin and Ukrainian President Kuchma pronounced Yanukovych the winner even though the voters knew that was utter nonsense. Orange-clad Ukrainians swarmed the Independence Square in Kiev, forcing another election, with Yuschchenko winning handily.

The bottom line to all this information is that Putin’s heavyhandedness is so obvious that it’s impossible not to notice that he deals with adversaries in an old school Soviet KGB way. I don’t know what the solution to his heavyhandedness is but it’s something that must be stopped soon.