Ex-Russian spy's death was 'the failed perfect murder'
Vladimir Putin’s recent implication in the Litvinenko affair will mark him down in history as the man who planned the "perfect murder, but failed”, a Russian historian has told 

Yuri Felshtinsky, who jointly wrote a book with Alexander Litvinenko about the role of the security services in Russian daily life, said the president’s foreign policy was "aggressive”, "only in its beginning stages” and was "looking for a conflict with NATO”.

Felshtinsky was speaking after a British judicial inquiry concluded Litvinenko had died in Nov. 2006 of radioactive poisoning after drinking tea contaminated with the polonium-210 isotope.

The report by retired judge Sir Robert Owen found that the murder was carried out by the FSB, Russia’s intelligence service, and ordered by its chief Nikolai Patrushev.

Its most dramatic conclusion, however, was that President Putin "probably” approved his murder.

Multiple theories ventured

"For the last nine years the Russian government has repeatedly stated that it had nothing to do with the murder of Litvinenko in London and formed many theories to explain how, why, and by whom Litvinenko was killed,” Felshtinsky told Anadolu Agency.

"Now it is stated by the British court that Litvinenko was killed by the FSB agents [Andrei] Lugovoi and [Dmitri] Kovtun, and Putin is implicated. That is how he will go down in history: as the person who planned the operation in London as a perfect murder, but failed.”

He added that Western perceptions of the Russian president had changed dramatically in the nine years since Litvinenko was poisoned on the streets of London.

"In 2006, only a small group of people claimed that Putin was a corrupt politician, a former KGB/FSB officer who became president of Russia by manipulating the system and brought with him hundreds of the FSB operatives to take control over all of Russia.

"In 2016, we see Putin as someone who invaded Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014, killing thousands of people. What is the life of one Russian defector, Litvinenko, in comparison with the invasion of two countries and the downing of a Malaysian airplane over Ukraine?"

"As a consequence, now it is very easy for us to see and to believe that, yes, Putin personally was the behind the order to kill Litvinenko.”

Felshtinsky’s 2007 book Blowing Up Russia, which he jointly wrote with Litvinenko – an ex-FSB agent – described the intelligence services’ gradual assumption of power in Russia, claiming the agency was involved in a series of domestic terror attacks between 1994 and 1999.

The book was subsequently banned across Russia.


For Anton Shekhovtsov, a visiting fellow at the London-based Legatum Institute think-tank, the findings were not a surprise and were heavily implied shortly after Litvinenko’s murder. Much more significant was the decision to name Putin directly, albeit qualified with the word "probably”.

He told Anadolu Agency: "The report mentioned several factors that could be behind Putin's ‘probable’ order to kill Litvinenko: the allegations of Putin's ‘pedophilic’ inclinations and in involvement in drug trafficking. This can potentially enrage Putin.”

"However, the most important thing now is how the U.K. responds. If the U.K. imposes sanctions on Russia, then it will lead to the deterioration of U.K.-Russian relations. But Russia will have to do this in the conditions of a very serious internal economic crisis.”

It is a situation, Felshtinsky adds, that could feed Putin’s foreign policy – which would have an effect on countries, including Syria: "[his] main goal is to support President Bashar al-Assad, to help him to stay in power, to win positions in Syria, to provoke a major conflict in the Middle East (a conflict that will include Saudi Arabia and Turkey), and thus to raise the price of oil, which is Russia's main export.”

Frostier relations to come

Thursday’s report added tension to already-strained ties between Russia and the U.K.

Russia’s ambassador to London, Alexander Yakovenko, denounced Thursday’s report as "absolutely unacceptable” for claiming that his country was involved in Litvinenko’s death, while U.K. Prime Minster David Cameron said on Thursday it "confirms what we always believed … that it was state-sponsored action”.

But both sides appeared to signal frostier relations to come, rather than a complete schism.

The ambassador said the report could not help but hurt bilateral ties, while Cameron told reporters: "We have a pretty difficult relationship with the Russians in any event. We totally disapprove of what they're doing in Syria, bombing the moderate opposition. That is making the situation worse, not better."

"But do we at some level have to go on having some sort of relationship with them because we need a solution to the Syria crisis? Yes, we do, but we do it with clear eyes and a very cold heart.”

Last Modified: 2016-01-23 11:22:57
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