Monday, November 27, 2006

Is Russia to Blame? - Alexander Litvinenko

Guardian Unlimited | Comment is free | Don't rush to judgment

In our desire to fulfil a James Bond fantasy, we have too hastily pointed the finger at the Kremlin

Tom Parfitt in Moscow

"Litvinenko, a former lieutenant colonel with Russia's federal security service (FSB) who had lived in Britain for six years, was apparently poisoned with the rare radioactive isotope polonium 210. This is tragic, shocking and mysterious. Yet, looking on from Moscow, the response in parts of the British press seems little short of hysterical.

Most worrying is the assumption that the Kremlin is bang to rights. In an editorial on Saturday, the Times argued that Vladimir Putin "must prove by deeds he is not linked to Litvinenko's murder".

Why must he? There is not a scrap of evidence to show that the Russian president was involved. Police are hardly out of the blocks and we're already up for some kangaroo justice.

Russia has killed people abroad, it is true, and recently. In 2004 two military-intelligence agents blew up the Chechen separatist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev in Qatar (the Americans helped). That was wrong, but Yandarbiyev was a real threat, channelling funding to militants on Russian soil. Litvinenko, however, was a spent force as a critic of Putin."

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