Big Boys Rules - We should keep well away from the wasps nest which is the Alexander Litvinenko killing
|Cartoon by Chris Riddell
When I raised the Litvinenko murder with a friend she replied I cannot understand why the British are poking around that wasps nest. She was right, as it's been clear for some time how the poor man died and why.
For the British government to now display shock, horror and not a little theatrics, after the chair of a less than public UK inquiry, Judge Robert Owen, reported the murder of Litvinenko was maybe, might be, probably was ordered by the Russian President Vladimir Putin, was pure diplomatic sleight of hand.
Litvinenko was once employed by the Russian Federal Security Service, (FSB) the successor agency of the old Soviet era KGB whom he had worked for until the USSR imploded under its own contradictions.
After the USSR imploded, money was at first tight for former KGB officers at Litvinenko's level. As the new security service got off the ground, they saw how the oligarchs and politicians were helping themselves to state assets and wanted their share of the pie. Litvinenko having been re-employed in the FSB also moonlighted for Boris Berezovsky, acting as his unofficial head of security. He became one of a small cadre of light fingered FSB officers who unofficially worked for Berezovsky.
Berezovsky was at one time a member of President Yeltsin's inner-circle. He was allegedly close to his influential daughter Tatyana. He also acted as fixer for Roman Abramovich the Russian oligarch and owner Chelsea Football Club.
According to Wikipedia the FSB is engaged mostly in domestic affairs, while espionage duties are the responsibility of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. However, the FSB also includes the FAPSI agency, which conducts electronic surveillance abroad. All law enforcement and intelligence agencies in Russia work under the guidance of FSB, if needed. In this they operated much like the British security services do in the UK.
Members of the FSB work under what journalist Toby Harden called 'big boys rules,' which basically means no one should express surprise at the consequences when they break the said rules.
With the rise of Putin, Litvinenko fell under a cloud as he had sided with anti-Putin elements in the Kremlin and oligarchy. In 2000 Berezovsky fled Russia gaining British citizenship in 2003 where he became a prominent thorn in Putin's side. A popinjay of a man he failed to appreciate just how competent and ruthless Putin would turn out to be when defending his interest.
After being dismissed from the FSB Litvinenko eventually left Russia, while in Turkey he applied for asylum at the United States Embassy in Ankara, but his application was denied. He then used his contacts in the UK and was granted political asylum in 2001, and for the first time officially placed on Boris Berezovsky payroll. For the rest of his life the two of them worked closely in an anti-Putin front known as "the London Circle." A name first used by Russian exiles during the Bolshevik revolution era.
Shortly after, Litvinenko signed his own death warrant when he became a paid tout for British intelligence. He must have known this act would bring the retribution of his former employers down upon him. The Russian secret service has always regarded touting as a capital offence, going back to the father of the modern Russian intelligence service Felix Dzerzhinsky, who treated turncoats especially harshly.
Like highly valued police informers, Litvinenko was paid a £2000 monthly retainer by Mi6, who it seems prefered to use the word 'consultant.' This is what sealed his fate, not some tittle-tattle about Putin being a paedophile, or being in hock to oligarchs associated with crime families.
Under Russian federal law, the FSB is a military service, just like the armed forces, and operates under the same honour code and laws. Working for the enemy is a capital offence.
When looking at the Litvinenko killing it is important to understand this. When he accepted a £24K a year MI6 retainer and one presumes bonuses, he must have understood he had sealed his fate. With Litvinenko living in London, Alexander Bortnikov, the head of the FSB, knew full well the British government would not extradite him to Russia. Which may have suited the Kremlin as it gave them, with help from the British media, an opportunity to publicly display the grisly end which awaits FSB turncoats and traitors.
And so it proved, what happened to Mr Litvinenko was a twenty first century version of the icepick, only in full view.
The killing of Litvinenko was a very Russian affair which spilled over in London. The real blame should be shouldered by the fawning British politicians who acted as ushers and butlers to the Russian oligarchs who settled in London, and turned a blind the the antics of their gofers and hatchet men.
Instead of showing men like Berezovsky, Abramovich and Litvinenko the door, they rewarded them with British citizenship, or permanent resident status, and in some cases helped usurp UK law by fast tracking their applications for planning permission on their princely homes.
What they did is allow the 21st century versions of Al Capone and Bugsy Siegal into the London chicken coop. It was always going to end badly.