British authorities seem to be tracing an ever more inexorable and tightening link back from Alexander Litvinenko’s assassination directly to the Russian KGB/FSB. Lugovi, a former KGB agent who met with Litvinenko that day he fell ill has admitted what the British no doubt already knew, that he flew on one of the planes on which radioactivity has since been detected:
In Moscow, the newspaper Kommersant reported that Andrei Lugovi, one of the two Russians who met with Mr. Litvinenko at the Millennium hotel on the day he became sick, said he had flown on one of the contaminated British Airways jets on Nov. 3.
Mr. Lugovi has denied poisoning Mr. Litvinenko.
I’ll bet he has. But will he take a lie detector test to help ascertain that fact? He has admitted flying on November 3rd after the dead agent fell ill. But no doubt the police will find that he flew TO London on another plane that will be found to have radioactive traces.
And in a further widening of the gyre of weirdness, Yegor Gaidar, a former Russian prime minister and one-time Putin rival appears to have been similarly poisoned at an academic conference at the University of Ireland:
Doctors treating [the] former prime minister and academic who fell ill in Ireland the day after Mr. Litvinenko died, concluded that he had been poisoned, though the substance remained unknown, a spokesman for Mr. Gaidar said.
“They can say he was poisoned, but they cannot say what the substance was,” the spokesman, Valery A. Natarov, said by telephone. “It was not natural. It was not some sort of food or drink.”
Yekaterina Y. Genieva, director general of Russia’s State Foreign Literature Library, traveled with Mr. Gaidar to Ireland and shared breakfast with him on the morning he became ill.
She said he had fruit salad and tea, served by an elderly woman at the site of the conference, the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. “I say this because this was the only other person he encountered” who was not part of the group, she said in an interview on the telephone.
Ms. Genieva said Mr. Gaidar had complained that he felt ill and made arrangements to return to Moscow, but proceeded to give a lecture, then excused himself from the discussion.
Ms. Genieva said she found him in a corridor, vomiting and bleeding from his nose, and waited with him until an ambulance came. He was hospitalized and returned to Moscow two days later on Nov. 26.
The Russian security services seem to be favoring exotic poisons as their chosen method of assassination or intimidation. We’ll have to wait a few more weeks to see whether they fed Gaidar a lethal dose. I certainly hope that this second assassination attempt will make any western security service who may’ve discounted the rogue-like behavior of the KGB sit up and take notice. Litvinenko was not a one off exception to the rule. His death threatens to become the rule unless urgent and forceful diplomatic-security measures are taken to fight back.
The FSB has shown itself perfectly able to silence its critics at home. These new assaults outside of Russia seem to be saying to dissidents (that is, any Russian citizen who refuses to bow their knee to the oligarchs) that those of you who wish to vent your spleen against the Motherland outside our borders will have no protection. While the security services have proven their supremacy at home, they have had less control over events affecting Russia abroad. Think about the Ukraine, which appeared to have outfoxed Gazprom last year by siphoning gas off the latter’s lines when the energy company attempted to freeze an entire nation into submission to its greedy rate-gouging. The Litvinenko murder and Gaidar attempted murder seem to broadcast the message that anyone who bucks the Kremlin will be in danger–and this could include even non-Russians who may have business or political disputes with favored Russian interests. So beware any nation or individual having a such a dispute. Russia is willing to defend its interests by all means necessary, including poisoning and political assassination.
This reminds me a bit of Stalin’s use of terror as a political tool in his battle with his internal enemies. But even Stalin largely knew there were international borders beyond which he could not export his tactics. The one exception being the assassination of Trotsky. The only sign of “progress” is that the new Stalins have found methods more subtle than an ax in the head. And like Bush-Cheney, they seem to chafe at the limits imposed on them by political precedent and say we will pursue our interests outside our borders and even with lethal means.
Thankfully, Dick Cheney has not (yet) slipped Pat Leahy (remember the “fuck you” incident on the floor of Congress?) a radiation cocktail. But after reading about the FSB’s “success” who knows?
UPDATE: I’ve just read an earlier article about the Gaidar poisoning which throws a different light on the incident than my theorizing above. Yesterday, a Times reporter wrote that a number of Russian sources are claiming that while the deaths of Anna Politkovskaya, Alexander Litvinenko and Yegor Gaidar may be connected, it may NOT be governmental figures who are to blame. Though the article deliberately left vague who the responsible parties might be:
Anatoly B. Chubais, a longtime political ally who now heads the country’s electric monopoly, said that Mr. Gaidar appeared to have narrowly escaped an attempt on his life. He said there was a link not only to Mr. Litvinenko’s death but also to the murder of the journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, in October.
“This miraculously incomplete lethal construct — Politkovskaya, Litvinenko and Gaidar — would have been extremely attractive to those seeking an unconstitutional and forceful change of power in Russia,” Mr. Chubais said in televised remarks from St. Petersburg. He did not elaborate, but his remarks suggested he did not believe that the Russian authorities were involved.
In other words, those currently in power may not be responsible, but those who wish to take control when Putin’s reign ends might be.
Gaidar’s daughter appears to share Chubais’ view of the matter:
His daughter Maria, a prominent activist and critic, who was arrested in a protest near the Kremlin last week, said…she did not suspect that her father had been targeted by the authorities.
“I am absolutely sure it was not done by the Russian government,” Ms. Gaidar said.
The Russian Nezavisimaya Gazeta further amplifies Chubais’ theory:
[It] interviewed some analysts who speculated that the recent spate of high profile murders, along with Mr. Gaidar’s suspected poisoning, could be linked to an internal Kremlin power struggle between those advocating a transfer of power and those who wish for President Vladimir V. Putin to remain in office for a third term.