Marina Litvinenko: Cameron struck deal with Putin

In the Guardian, Luke Harding discusses Marina Litvinenko’s reaction to David Cameron’s decision to meet Vladimir Putin in Downing Street on Sunday, in the run-up to next week’s G8 summit. She says it is morally wrong to “appease dictators”:

Marina Litvinenko said she was convinced London and Moscow had struck a pragmatic understanding to bury the Litvinenko affair. She said: “How can you have serious talks about security in Syria with a person who doesn’t want you to provide justice following a polonium terror attack in central London? It was obviously Mr Putin himself who protected Lugovoi from extradition. I believe it is Putin who also decided that Lugovoi should become a Russian MP.”

From Harding’s report it also emerges that the North Caucasus human rights lawyer Olga Chelysheva has been denied entry to the U.K.

Litvinenko: Coroner’s Request for a Public Inquiry

Press release: 

Coroner’s Inquest into the death of Alexander Litvinenko

5 June 2013


Her Majesty’s Assistant Deputy Coroner for Inner North London, Sir Robert Owen, has written to the Secretary of State for Justice, the Right Honourable Christopher Grayling MP, requesting that a decision be made to order a Public Inquiry under section 1 (1) of the Inquiries Act 2005 to look into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Litvinenko.

The letter follows on from Sir Robert’s Public Interest Immunity (PII) ruling of 17 May 2013 in which he sought submissions from the Interested Persons relating to the setting up of a Public Inquiry. The Coroner received submissions which have been posted on the Inquest’s website. [ ]

The next hearing will be held as planned on Tuesday 11 June when Sir Robert currently intends to hear three applications for anonymity.


• 7 February 2013 – The Public Interest Immunity (PII) application was made to the Coroner by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

• 26 February 2013 – an inter partes public hearing which took argument from Interested Persons and from the press.

• 27 February 2013 – the Coroner’s Oral Ruling.

• 17 May – The Coroner releases his final Open Ruling. Parties have been given 14 days to challenge the ruling.

• 4 June – The Coroner writes to the Secretary of State for Justice requesting the setting up of a Public Inquiry.

For further information journalists should contact the Inquest’s communications manager, Mike Wicksteed.

Email: pressoffice@…

Tel: 07557-491634.


Luke Harding, on the collapse of the Litvinenko inquest (The Interpreter)


Masha Gessen, on why she is leaving Russia (The Lumière Reader)


Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, on late capitalism, in correspondence with Slavoj Žižek  (The New Times – Russian)


Dexter Filkins, on the internal White House debate over Syria (The New Yorker)


David Satter, on what the Russians really knew about the Tsarnaev brothers (National Review Online)


Litvinenko inquest: crucial evidence to remain secret


Via the Guardian:

The foreign secretary applied for a PII certificate on 7 February. He argued that if secret evidence were revealed it might damage “national security and/or international relations”. He gave no further details.

Ben Emmerson QC, acting for Marina Litvinenko, vehemently opposed Hague’s request and accused the government of a “cover-up”. He said Hague and David Cameron were seeking to suppress material not for reasons of intelligence but so as not to damage Britain’s trade interests with Moscow. The government, he told the hearing, was in effect “dancing to the Russian tarantella”.

The "Black Widow" stories

As Norbert Strade has pointed out, the March 29 bomb attacks on the Moscow subway, and their aftermath, have many features in common with the bomb blasts that were frequent in Russia during the mid-2000s:

– The 2003 attack on a rock concert on the Tushino airfield. Bombs exploded in two waste baskets, according to witnesses. The Russian authorities blamed female suicide bombers and “found” their passports.

– Also 2003, a car was blown up next to the “National Hotel” (a well-known mafia joint). After a while, the story was spun into a “female suicide bomber” case, and again, they “found” a passport.

– In 2004, two bomb explosions in the Moscow metro. It took the authorities several days to make up a story about a Caucasian suicide bomber in the first case, while the witness accounts went in many different directions and the established facts pointed at a criminal connection . In the second attack, they again “found” the remains and the passport of a female suicide bomber.

Btw., passports have a remarkable ability to survive terrorist bomb explosions.

– Also in 2004, the bomb explosions in two airplanes in connection with the Beslan hostage taking (claimed by Shamil Basayev) were highly suspect. In spite of the fact that their own investigation had stated that the airplanes were blown up by bombs placed in the baggage compartment, the Russian authorities continued their “black widow” stories. And they had to tweak their version several times, until it had become completely comical (two “black widows” – apparently dressed up to the act – had bribed their way into both planes and then simultaneously,in mid-air, blown up the bombs in the baggage with remote controls – what gives…).

Not to forget, while there is a serious lack of hard evidence linking North Caucasian suicide bombers to the mentioned attacks, one shouldn’t forget how FSB officers were caught red-handed trying to blow up an apartment building in 1999.  

To this it might be added that at least one of the apparent motives for the murder of the ex-KGB and ex-FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko was his account of the last-mentioned incident from an insider’s point of view.

It seems that in Russia’s war on terror little has altered in the space of 10 years. Even the rhetoric is unchanged. Today, Vladimir Putin said: “We know that in this case they are hiding  on the bottom, but it is now a a matter of honour for our law enforcement officers to winkle them out from the bottom of the sewer into the light of day” (quoted from ITAR-TASS).  Putin first used the “sewer” imagery in relation to Chechen terrorists back in 2000 (which was also the year of the first suicide bombing in Russia), but has not re-used it until now. 

From an interview – 3

Mikhail Sokolov: So is Russia continuing to travel along the path laid out by Putin – anti-Westernism, “soft” dictatorship, and so on, or not?

Yuri Felshtinsky: You know, I can’t really call what’s happening in Russia today anti-Westernism, or even soft dictatorship. The people in the government are mostly those who worked for the KGB all their lives, or sometimes for other law enforcement agencies. In addition to the fact that all these people were born and lived in the Soviet era and were trained in the Soviet system, these people have passed through the school of the law enforcement agencies.

I don’t mean to offend the former or current leaders of the KGB, but you and I both know how the selection process for this organization, especially the KGB, worked. In other words, let’s put it this way: there are no good people there. I can’t emphasize this enough. A good person did not go to work for the KGB. I know it from Sasha Litvinenko. I always said to Sasha Litvinenko: “Sasha, you know, there are two people in your organization. One needs to be rewarded, and the other needs to be punished.” He would say: “Who are they?” “The person who should be rewarded is whoever chose you to work in the FSB and the KGB. Because it’s incredible, I mean, you’re a typical KGB officer. And the person who ought to be punished is whoever let slip the moment when you decided to defect from the KGB, because it’s extremely dangerous for the KGB to have you as an enemy.” And as an enemy of the FSB Litvinenko was indeed very dangerous, and so they killed him. They couldn’t find any other way of fighting him, they had to kill him.

To return to our topic: a good person did not go to work for the KGB, so by definition absolutely all the people who served in the KGB were bad people. That may be a naive thing to say.

Mikhail Sokolov: Not very scientific.

Yuri Felshtinsky: No, but it’s true. In everyday terms, you and I and all of us know that all those people are bad people. So what can one expect of the political system of our country, whether present or future, when it’s overwhelmingly led by these same bad people? Of course, nothing good can be expected of it. The fact that from time to time we encounter some anti-Western statements, for example, or some minor wars such as the one in Georgia –it’s all the result of the fact that these people run Russia today. They can’t act any differently, it’s just the way they’re made.

Looking through GQ

Commenting on the recent GQ controversy, and the question of “Radio Liberty’s failure for a number of days to post on its Russian-language website any in-depth reports about the banning in Russia of Scott Anderson’s “GQ” magazine article, which was highly critical of Mr. Putin and accused the FSB of instigating terrorist attacks to help his rise to power”, ex-VOA reporter and executive Ted Lepien writes that

Thirty-one years ago this week, on 7 September 1978, Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian émigré journalist who wrote for Radio Free Europe, BBC and Deutsche Welle, was assaulted in broad daylight on London’s Waterloo Bridge. Markov’s murder happened during the Cold War, but in more recent years the murder of Anna Politkovskaya and of numerous other journalists in Russia, as well as the assassination in London of former KGB and FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who became a vocal critic of Mr. Putin, have brought into focus the question of how safe it is in the post-Cold War world to criticize Russian leaders, especially for journalists living in Russia, but also for anybody living in the West who has ties to Russia.

Hat tip: Mari-Ann Kelam