Writing in the Moscow Times, Russia's leading pundit Yevgeny Kiselyov exposes the naked, blind hatred of the West that is consuming Russia, pushing it once again over the edge of rationality and into the abyss of self-destruction.
There has been much talk in the past couple of days that Russian-British relations is undergoing an unprecedented crisis. According to The Times, a spokesman for British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called Moscow's refusal to extradite Andrei Lugovoi, the leading suspect in the killing, "extremely disappointing." Next week, the British Foreign Office will present a report to the British parliament regarding the Alexander Litvinenko murder investigation. As a result, the Foreign Office is preparing a whole series of retaliatory measures against Moscow.
Not surprisingly, Russia has returned the favor. The Russian ambassador to London, Yury Fedotov, accused the British a couple of days ago of Russophobia, and he accused the British police of equating every Russian with the mafia. Fedotov said Britain's animosity toward Russians has become a serious problem. This hatred takes the form of discrimination and harassment against Russians in stores, hotels, restaurants and on the streets across Britain.
To be honest, I haven't heard such rubbish in a long time. I have been to London dozens of times and I haven't encountered any type of Russophobia. On the contrary, the British have always been the epitome of hospitality and courtesy. Maybe I have been lucky during my visits to Britain, but many of my friends, who have lived in London for many years, were surprised, to say the least, when they heard the Russian ambassador's statement.
To be absolutely fair, among our fellow countrymen who travel to London, you can find Russians who have long ago gone berserk after they amassed so much wealth. They squander their money, are openly rude and scandalous, and they make public scenes. And in light of this, Russians complain about how the British look upon them with contempt.
It is good that the British can put the Russian nouveau riche in their place. Their behavior has really gotten out of hand -- so much that it is a disgrace to our country.
But the largest disgrace is what is happening in Moscow. This is where the real Anglophobia gets blown out of proportion. It has reached the level of hysteria: the massive accusations of espionage; the pressure applied to nongovernmental organizations, which have received grants from Britain; the closing of excellent English-language courses sponsored by the British Council; our Nashi riffraff, who terrorized the British Ambassador Toni Brenton with the tacit consent of Russian authorities; and the various anti-British publications in the pro-Kremlin press.
As regards Russia's refusal to extradite Lugovoi, I can agree with this decision in principle because the law should be above everything. And the Constitution, which protects Russian citizens from extradition, should always be observed.
But it seems to me that if our government acted differently, Britain would not have taken the firm position that they have now. It is unfortunate that our so-called "elite" absolutely don't want to understand why the British reacted so sharply to the Litvinenko case. (In reality, the Russian "elite" is no elite at all, but, in most cases, complete rabble, who have no sense of responsibility for the fate of our country and who are concerned only about stuffing their pockets with loads of money and running away to London in time.)
Regardless of how you feel about Litvinenko, a crime has been committed and a person has been killed with a highly radioactive substance. Moreover, dozens of Londoners were subjected to the risk of deadly poisoning. Unlike Russia, British society is not accustomed to a situation where such serious crimes go unsolved (we have the exact opposite situation). In this crime, all of the evidence leads to Russia: The polonium that killed Litvinenko most likely originated from Russia and it is even more likely that Lugovoi executed this killing. Although Russian law prohibits Lugovoi's extradition, it by no means prohibits Russia from carrying out a thorough investigation of Lugovoi's alleged participation in the murder.
What is really going on in this case?
Eight months have passed since we found out that Litvinenko died from polonium-210 poisoning. During this time, the Russian authorities could have easily clarified whether the polonium used in the killing came from the few Russian enterprises that produce this rare substance. Russian law enforcement agencies could have also investigated the many facts quoted in the press that link Lugovoi to Litvinenko's murder.
A confession alone cannot be used as evidence to prove that the accused committed a crime. We learned this hard lesson from the Stalin-era prosecutor, Andrei Vyshinsky, who ordered the execution of thousands of people who confessed to crimes only after being tortured. This is also true for the opposite case: Denying a crime is not sufficient proof of innocence.
Lugovoi's actions remind me of the old Russian saying regarding absolute denial: "This doesn't concern me, I don't have the slightest idea of what you are talking about and I am completely innocent." Lugovoi claims that he has no idea whatsoever how the polonium landed on his body and why his footprints have been found in all the places where he was present -- in London, in Moscow, on board the British Airways flights that he took and even in the British embassy on Smolenskaya Naberezhnaya. Enemies probably planted the polonium.
It seems that all of Lugovoi's words are eagerly accepted as the truth. The Russian prosecutor initiated a criminal case in the Litvinenko murder, but it is impossible to determine his exact status in this case. Is he a witness? An accused? A representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: "If we find concrete evidence of Lugovoi's guilt, perhaps we will consider taking legal action against him in Russia, but we haven't received such evidence."
If you read the official records of Berezovsky's and Zakayev's interrogation with Russian investigators in London, you can find out a lot about the way Russian prosecutors are treating this matter. Most of the questions have no relation to the murder investigation whatsoever; they were asked with the obvious intention of finding out more about Berezovsky's acquaintances and their whereabouts.
Meanwhile, Lugovoi held a press conference and claimed that Berezovsky and Litvinenko were recruited into the British intelligence service. It was clear that at this press conference, Lugovoi read a statement prepared for him by someone else, and his statement was broadcasted by major pro-government television stations -- as if it were the highest truth. Moreover, the FSB initiated a criminal case of espionage solely on the basis of Lugovoi's statements, although it failed to state who exactly is the target of the espionage case. The only concrete people that Lugovoi named were Berezovsky and Litvinenko.
I don't want to say that the British intelligence service does not operate in Moscow, for example, under diplomatic cover. They probably do. Just as the Foreign Intelligence Service probably works in London and dozens of other capitals under diplomatic cover. Moreover, I will tell you a startling fact: intelligence officers use people as important sources of information and try to recruit them as agents. We recruit the British. The British recruit Russians. This has always been the case and will be so for a long time. This is the way of the world.
You could fan the flame on these espionage cases, declare agents who are working in Russia legally as persona non grata and kick them out of the country. If we do, the British will answer in the same exact way and we will return to the level of Russian-British relations of the early 1970s, when there were massive reciprocal expulsions of British and Soviet agents working under diplomatic cover.
What is the point of all this? To punish the British for their unwillingness to strip Berezovsky of his status as a political refugee?
Will this obsession by the Russian authorities to nail Berezovsky at all costs turn into insanity?
Again, I am convinced that if the Russian justice had a sincere interest in working with British prosecutors and investigators in order to confirm or deny the accusations against Lugovoi, there would probably be a thaw in the Russian-British crisis. But the exact opposite is happening, and this only strengthens the suspicion that Lugovoi is deeply entangled in the Litvinenko murder and that the Russian authorities are covering up for him.