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Monday, June 04, 2007

The Mailbag: A Reader on Lugovoi

Letters, we get letters, we get lots of cards and letters every day

A reader offers some additional thoughts on the Lugovoi scandal by e-mail:

I think most people who read this blog would probably find Mr Lugovoi's recent accusations in his hour and a half marathon news conference totally unbelievable. Unfortunately, not only will the vast majority of Russians accept them almost without question but I am sure that quite a significant proportion of people in western countries will believe them as well. After all there are plenty who believe that the twin towers were brought down by controlled demolition.

It is also evident that the Russian media take them extremely seriously. A Russian newspaper reported on the news conference: "Overall, more than 130 Russian and foreign reporters, as well as crews from 26 TV-channels were accredited to the event." Since the Russian media is now mainly state owned and largely state controlled it is hard to resist the conclusion that the news conference was instigated with Kremlin involvement.

However, it is easy to forget that no British law enforcement, judicial, or government official has accused the Kremlin of complicity in Litvinenko's murder. The whole news conference was (in theory) only for an independent businessman to give his alibi (and of course to make a huge string of unsubstantiated counter-allegations). It is therefore a bit rich for the Kremlin to accuse Britain of trying to politicise Litvinenko's murder*, when British statements have instead been to remind everyone that it is a criminal case (even though they know it might well have been state sponsored murder).

* Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted by news agency Interfax as saying, "We see attempts from the British side to use a criminal case for stirring up some kind of political campaign. We are against this,". I think he protests too much!

I would also like to offer some observations on the central accusation, that the British secret service tried to recruit Lugovoi to try to find information to blacken Mr Putin's name (and apparently his family as well). Firstly, it does not take secret services to start false rumours and publicise them. In a free country the tabloid press is perfectly capable of unearthing not just rumours but genuine damaging information about public figures. Granted in Russia it may be more difficult and dangerous, but anyway, if there is no damaging information to discover, why should Putin be worried?

Really, the best person at the job of blackening Putin's name is V V Putin himself. The archived articles in this blog are testament to that, and the fact that the British media and especially the British government have so little interest in the issues that they deal with is testament to the fact that Britain is not waging any kind of propaganda campaign against Russia, let alone the kind of information cold war that Mr Lugovoi implies.


Pat said...

On a related matter, from a BBC report Monday:

"Russia's constitution did not permit it to hand over citizens and British prosecutors' competence was in doubt if they had not known that, Mr Putin said."

The Russian Constitution article 63.2:

"The extradition of persons charged with crimes and also the hand-over of convicts for serving time in other countries shall be effected on the basis of the federal law or international treaty of the Russian Federation."

European Convention on Extradition (as co-signed by Russia), Article 1:

"The Contracting Parties undertake to surrender to each other, subject to the provisions and conditions laid down in this Convention, all persons against whom the competent authorities of the requesting Party are proceeding for an offence or who are wanted by the said authorities for the carrying out of a sentence or detention order."

After lying, in effect, Putin even conceded in an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that he had consulted with the Prosecutor General, whose responsibility it is to assess the validity of an extradition case.
For the record, I find it inconceivable that the Russian government had anything to do with the organisation of the murder of a low-level former FSB functionary. But Putin's pride, arrogance and dishonesty over the extradition issue makes him complicit after the fact at the very least. No British politician has stooped to making such absurd and imflammatory remarks, no British prosecutor has attempted to make a case for politically motivated assassination, which makes Putin's remarks ill-judged in the extreme.

La Russophobe said...

Thanks for the comment! We've analyzed this topic here:

It's truly frightening that the people of Russia are prepared to allow the creation of another through-the-looking-glass state where laws mean nothing but what the Kremlin says they mean.

Anonymous said...

Very good points Pat - I wish the information you provide was more widely known. I just believed the Russians when they said the consitution forbad extradition... and the Western press when they repeated it.

Whoops. Silly me. I should have known better. Never take things as face value when you are dealing with the Russians.