Putin ‘Probably’ Signed Off on Litvinenko Murder

A new British inquiry proves that we should ‘fear this man.’

Russian President Vladimir Putin “probably” approved the murder of former Russian intelligence agent Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, according to an inquiry published by the British government on January 21.

The British had been investigating this assassination because it happened on British soil. Officials spent nine years examining evidence, interviewing 64 witnesses, and assembling a 328-page document. The conclusion is basically that it would have been next to impossible for the murder to have happened as it did without involvement from the Russian government—and without Putin himself signing off on it.

That’s largely because Litvinenko was poisoned with polonium-210, a highly toxic and rare isotope. The inquiry says Andrei K. Lugovoi and Dmitry V. Kovtun—both men with ties to the Russian government—were responsible for slipping the substance into Litvinenko’s drink while he was staying at a London hotel.

The use of polonium-210, according to the inquiry, was “at the very least a strong indicator of [Russian] state involvement” since it had to have been made in a nuclear reactor.

Sir Robert Owen, the public inquiry chairman, said the evidence implicates not just Putin, but also Moscow’s fsb intelligence service, which at the time was headed by Nikolai Patrushev: “Taking full account of all the evidence and analysis available to me, I find that the fsb operation to kill Mr. Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr. Patrushev and also by President Putin.”

The poisoning consigned Litvinenko to a painful, 22-day demise. The inquiry says Putin’s government carried it out in order to send a message.

If you know the backstory on Litvinenko, it’s easy to see what that message was.

Litvinenko had fled Russia in the year 2000, saying he was being persecuted. He was granted asylum in the United Kingdom and eventually gained British citizenship.

Before his death, he worked as a writer and journalist publishing material highly critical of the Kremlin and Putin. It is likely that he was also working for British intelligence. From Putin’s perspective, Litvinenko was a traitor. By having him killed, Putin sent a message saying he has no tolerance for turncoats.

This development is important because it exposes the naïveté and error of the common Western view of Putin and his government.

In the January issue of the Philadelphia Trumpet, columnist Brad Macdonald explained:

In the West, many see Russian President Vladimir Putin more as a schoolyard bully than a ruthless tyrant. He’s mischievous and unfriendly, but his behavior, we tell ourselves, is the result of insecurity. If we ignore him, he’ll grow out of it. Many are amused by and even admire Putin’s personality and behavior. He is the John Wayne of world politics: decisive, uncompromising and masculine. He is the antithesis of the soft, politically correct Western politician. He’s traditional, conservative and pragmatic in a world growing ever more liberal, secular and dangerously idealistic.But we must not be deceived by Vladimir Putin. … Evil often has a way of seeming attractive and enticing, right before it destroys you.

The new inquiry provides us with yet another proof of Putin’s ruthlessness. It gives us one more in a long list of reasons to correct the view that Putin is only a delightfully mischievous character.

To understand more about his true character, and its geopolitical implications, read Mr. Macdonald’s article “Fear This Man.”