A couple of interesting articles in last Monday's Chronicle Herald caught my eye. In the Voice of The People section, Scott Burbidge of Port Williams decided it was premature for the U.K., U.S., Germany, and France to blame the Russian government for the nerve agent attack on ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. In that same newspaper columnist, Scott Taylor, questioned the validity of blaming the Russians for the attack.
Taylor pointed out that the deadly nerve agent known as novichok was developed by the former KGB during the Cold War, and that fact would automatically put the blame on the Russians. He also noted that if the Kremlin really wanted Skripal dead they would have simply shot him, or stabbed him in a fake robbery, rather than going to the trouble – and risk – of using a nerve agent. To further strengthen his argument, Taylor asked the question...why now? Skripal was arrested in 2004, convicted of treason in 2006, and released to Britian in 2010 as part of a spy exchange between Russia and the U.K. They had many opportunities to get rid Skripal before this point in time.
Scott Taylor states that to accept the British government's theories “we have to accept the fact that Putin's FSB agents must be some of the dumbest spies in the business.” I disagree with Taylor and I believe Theresa May has hit the nail on the head. Putin ordered the attack on Skripal and the nerve agent was used for a reason. That reason is to instill fear in any Russian who might consider taking a stand against the Putin regime. Skripal and his daughter were the chosen sacrificial lambs.
There have been many murders of Russian citizens and there seems to be no doubt as to who is behind those deaths. In 2015 Russian press minister, Mikail Lesin, died from blunt force trauma to the head. He was found in a Washington, DC hotel room. Lesin had been considering making a deal with the FBI to protect himself from corruption charges. Since he was very involved in the political arena in Russia he knew a lot about a lot of people.
Most of us likely remember the death of Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent who drank tea at a London hotel. It seems his tea had an extra ingredient...polonium-210. An inquiry found that the two FSB agents who administered the poison were acting on orders. Litvinenko accused Putin of blowing up an apartment block and ordering the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya. She had published a book in which she accused Putin of turning the country into a police state. Another journalist, Natalia Estemirova, was working on uncovering human-rights abuses carried out by the Russian state in Chechnya when she was abducted and later found with gunshot wounds to her head.
Stanislav Markelov, a human-rights lawyer who represented journalists who were critical of Putin was shot near the Kremlin. Anastasia Baburova was walking with him and was also shot and killed. Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and critic of Putin was shot...and Boris Beresovsky, an oligarch who fled to Britain was found dead from an apparent suicide. Paul Klebnikov, chief editor of the Russian edition of Forbes, had written about corruption and was then killed in a drive-by shooting. Sergei Yushenkov's attempt to prove the Russian state was behind the bombing of the apartment block cost him his life.
And the list goes on. There are many more suspicious deaths in Russia and deaths of Russian citizens in other countries. Vladimir Putin has been re-elected for six more years as Russia's president. Alexei Navalny, the only real challenger, had opened 60 campaign offices but was denied the opportunity to register as a candidate. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and those with absolute power will go to all and any means to maintain that power.
Shirley Hallee’s column runs weekly in the Amherst News