Vladimir Putin killed Aleksandr Litvinenko. The November 2006 assassination was no rogue hit. Putin had the motive, means, opportunity, and power to see that this human irritant received his comeuppance. I’ve said what everyone knows but officially hesitates to declare – until now. It took gutsy British judge Robert Owen, after a long inquiry, to say publicly that former KGB operative Litvinenko was killed with a dose of Polonium-210 as part of a KGB/FSB assassination – and, based on the rarity of the radioactive poison used to kill him, “probably” under orders from Vladimir Putin.
Litvinenko’s assassination is only one of several. The earlier deaths included journalist/Putin critic Anna Politkovskaya in October 2006 and opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in February 2015. Both were on the wrong side of Putin, and both suffered standard KGB eliminations – apparently “random” street shootings. This was especially easy, since their deaths took place in Russia, where Putin’s cronies pulled all the investigative strings to round up the usual suspects. This means these were in no way as thoroughly investigated as the Litvinenko case, which took place in London.
A Putinesque assassination on a grander scale was also examined recently by an exhaustive Polish parliamentary inquiry. It examined the orchestrated 2010 plane crash in Smolensk, Russia, which (conveniently) killed Poland’s president and 96 members of the top echelon of his pro-Western government. The accident, ignored in the West as another airplane mishap, was reported later by the brave British judge as “probably” carried out under authority of Putin yet of little significance.
It was linked, by its commemorative mission, to a far worse Russian secret service murder: the WWII Katyn Forest massacre of 22,000 Polish officer prisoners and senior officials, originally blamed by Russia for 75 years on the Germans. Russia was to finally admit responsibility for the Katyn Massacre in a public ceremony in Smolensk. But Putin, with his eyes on Ukraine and other gambits, decided it would be untimely PR and mounted a diversion – permanently. The crash of the Poland’s Air Force One, a Tupolev Tu-154, solved the problem. It led to Poland’s post-crash government, loaded with pro-Russian holdovers and Russian apparatchiks, to quickly accept, without question, Russia’s explanation of the crash: pilot error while attempting a landing in bad weather. The Polish parliament, however, conducted its own investigation of the crash, backed by forensic evidence, which concluded it was caused by two bombs onboard the plane.
The October 2015 Polish elections placed the pre-crash, pro-Western conservative Law and Justice party back in power. Because the new government sought to clear out embedded Russian propagandists and lackeys, as well as to halt unfettered, costly immigration of restless, anti-Western Muslim youth – to the chagrin of America’s liberal media – it was quickly tagged, by America, as too far right.
Poland’s newly elected center-right government has now sued Russia for the return of the Smolensk plane, the black box, and all material from the crash scene. It sought a truthful inquiry. In a January 22, 2016 conference with the Polish delegation in Moscow, the Russians stated that the return of the wreckage of the Polish plane would be possible “after the investigation is completed” and only after mutual agreement regarding the cause of the crash – a clear admission by the Russians that their perfidy will be obvious once the evidence is in neutral hands.
It took Poland’s minister of national defense, Antoni Macierewicz, who chaired Poland’s parliamentary investigation, to challenge Putin’s version of the crash. It remains to be seen how our media explains Poland’s independence and ability to manage its own affairs now. Yet Putin bides his time, knowing that a fresh supply of his Russian-Polish operatives will tighten control of Poland and tamp down the nascent calls for justice to once again bring this noisy, untrained cur of a former satellite back under the control Russia had before the recent elections. And he has America – and our media – on his side to make that undemocratic silencing happen.
Gene Poteat is a retired CIA senior scientific intelligence officer and president emeritus of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.