Congressional Quarterly reports:
Almost a year after Kremlin critic Paul Joyal was gunned down in his suburban Maryland driveway, the case remains a mystery. To some, including the Prince George’s County police, it was a random street crime, “an attempt at a citizen robbery,” a spokesman said Friday. The alleged assailants, two black men whom Joyal only glimpsed before he was felled by a single handgun shot in his gut, remain at large. “There’s no change in the status of the case,” said police spokesman Henry Tippett. “We still think it was a citizen robbery.”
Others don’t buy that, starting with a retired P.G. County police detective, Karl Milligan, who spent decades in homicide before retiring as chief of the intelligence unit in 2004. Milligan volunteered to help Joyal, 53, a one-time chief of security for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a former business partner of retired Soviet KGB Gen. Oleg Kalugin, after reading about Joyal’s outspoken criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Only four days before he was attacked, Joyal was featured on an NBC Dateline show accusing the Kremlin of going after its critics abroad. The “citizen robbery” idea never made sense to him, Milligan said, starting with its location, in the quiet Holly Hill neighborhood of Adelphi, a ’50’s-era subdivision with no drive-through traffic, abutting George Washington Memorial Cemetery.
“First of all, it’s way up in a corner of P.G. County, so secluded you’d hardly know anybody lived there,” said Milligan, 51, in an interview last week. “Crime was very low there and still is.” Carjackings, muggings and home invasions are virtually unknown there, the police confirmed. “There were no [violent] incidents prior” to the March 1, 2007, attack, Tippett said, and none since. “It’s still generally a quiet area.”
Another thing, Milligan says: The way the attack went down.
‘That’s Not How Robbers Act’
Joyal was returning home after meeting Kalugin for a drink near the Spy Museum in downtown Washington. The longtime security expert pulled into his driveway and stepped out of his car. Two men jumped from the bushes, one grabbing him from behind. They were both black, Joyal told me over lunch a few weeks ago, but he got only a fleeting look at the one facing him, who had “sandy hair that looked dyed.”
“He says, ‘Shoot him!’” Joyal said, in “some kind of accent, maybe Caribbean.” A handgun went off. A bullet pierced his intestines. He crumpled to the ground, bleeding heavily. The assailants ran off into the night, leaving behind Joyal’s wallet, his computer, his briefcase and, of course, his car. “That is not how a crime is committed up there,” says Milligan.
Joyal’s wife, Elizabeth, emerged from the house, screamed and called an ambulance. Her husband spent the next 20 days in an induced coma and underwent five operations to put his intestines back together. When he woke up, he at first thought it was an ordinary street crime himself. But others immediately suspected the involvement of Russian assassins, who had been on a rampage against critics of the Putin regime.
Joyal, who had been a consultant to former Soviet Georgia as well as companies who wanted to do business in Russia, saw the hand of the Putin regime in the assassination of dissident former Russian intelligence agent Alexander Litvinenko, who died from a lethal dose of polonium-210, a rare radioactive isotope, in London in November 2006. “A message has been communicated to anyone who wants to speak out against the Kremlin,” Joyal said on NBC Dateline. “If you do, no matter who you are, where you are, we will find you, and we will silence you — in the most horrible way possible.”
Joyal was “silenced,” too, many Russian experts thought. “He had just accused the Russian government on NBC of poisoning former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London the previous November,” the prolific journalist Alex Shoumatoff, whose aristocratic parents emigrated from Moscow when the czar was overthrown in 1917, noted.
“Litvinenko had blown the whistle on murders and corruption in the Putin regime. . . . The month before that Anna Politkovskaya, who had written about the torture of Chechens by the Russian army in the biweekly Novaya Gazeta, was gunned down in her Moscow apartment elevator. And two years before that Paul Klebnikov, the Moscow editor of Forbes Russia, was shot dead in the street. Klebnikov had just begun to investigate the 1995 murder of a Russian TV journalist, Vladislav Listyev.”
Shoumatoff also noted the suspicious death of “Ivan Safronov, who fell to his death from his 5th-story window on March 2,” the day after Joyal was attacked. “A military correspondent for the daily Kommersant, Safronov was working on a story about the Kremlin’s furtive sale of anti-aircraft missiles to Iran and jet fighters to Syria.”
Kalugin, who had once commanded all Soviet espionage operations in the U.S. as chief of the KGB’s First Directorate, said that without an arrest, no one could be certain of who was responsible for the attack on Joyal. But he called it “strange.”
“Why were they waiting for him? That’s not how robbers act,” Kalugin said in a telephone interview. “There are dozens of houses in the neighborhood. Why would they pick his? And why would they wait for him in the bushes at the house?” The onetime master spy, a frequent lecturer on Russian activities in the U.S., said he has received “anonymous threats” in letters and telephone calls. But “that was some time ago.” State controlled Russian media, he said, often wonders in print why he hasn’t been killed, in a tone that seems to be “goading the Russian security services” into getting rid of him.
The FBI briefly got involved in the Joyal case, and took a cartridge found at the scene to the crime lab at Quantico, where it sits today. An investigative source who conferred with them said they “didn’t seem to have much interest in it.” The FBI did not respond to a request for comment.
The Fate of Beckett
Those who follow events in Russia closely are divided on whether the Kremlin would dare to reach out and touch someone in the United States. For starters, it would demand a response from the Bush administration, which has soft-peddled its criticism of Putin, a former KGB agent himself, in exchange for cooperation against Islamic terrorists and other issues, many critics say.
“If the Russians were behind the attack on Paul Joyal, then they crossed a line that they had not done earlier even in Soviet times — attacking a native-born American citizen on American territory,” says Paul Goble, a longtime U.S. government specialist on Soviet and post-Soviet states who now teaches in Azerbaijan. “One hopes that they would not dare do so, but that there are widespread suspicions on this point reflects two things: the Russian government’s lack of total control over all those in its security structures and the deterioration of conditions in Russia itself more generally.”
But Glen Howard, president of the Jamestown Foundation, established during the Cold War to help promote the views of Soviet defectors in the West, said it’s “absolutely” possible that the Russians may have sanctioned the attack on Joyal. “It’s part of a whole chain of events,” Howard said. Since Putin has been in power, Russian diplomats in Washington have increasingly been exhibiting “thuggish” behavior in response to the foundation’s activity and criticism of Russian policies in Chechnya and rest of the North Cauasus. “They show up in the lobby and demand to see someone,” in contrast to the warm era under Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s first democratically elected president, when “they would have the civility to call you up an make an appointment.”
Not long ago, Howard said, one Russan diplomat simply showed up at his office and “refused to leave” until security guards were called. Howard also said that Jamestown, and he personally, have been singled out for criticism by the state-owned Russian press. In 2005 the foreign ministry issued a note of protest to the State Department about the activities of The Jamestown Foundation, a research and analysis organization that focuses on Russia and Eurasia. “It creates an air of intimidation,” he said. “It makes me think twice about doing something, not only in Russia, but even Washington. D.C.”
Whether the Kremlin had a hand in Joyal’s attack, said Goble, it’s unlikely to be discovered. Many cut-outs would have been employed to separate Moscow and the thugs who shot him. “Some have speculated that it could be the case that no one in Moscow gave an order to go after Paul Joyal but that someone senior there made a ‘who will rid me of this meddlesome priest’ type of comment, and a more junior person decided to ‘show initiative’ by acting on that hint alone,” Goble said in an e-mail from Azerbaijan. “In some ways, that possibility is even more disturbing than a direct order, because it means that the Russian authorities may not be in a position to ensure that this does not happen again.”
The elimination of critics, said Goble, is part of “the radical deterioration of conditions in the Russian Federation under Putin.”
“Because of that deterioration,” he added, “some who want to go to Russia regularly and maintain close ties with Russian officials have become more cautious, just as some of their predecessors were in Soviet times.”
But other security experts dismiss the likelihood of the Kremlin contracting out an assassination in the United States. The downside overwhelms any small advantage it could gain from silencing a critic here, not to mention the risk of getting caught. Putin has been on a public relations offensive recently, most visibly in buying lavish color inserts in The Washington Post — 10 last year, according to the newspaper, which declined to put a dollar amount on no doubt expensive purchases — touting everything from tourism to Putin’s possible successor to the virtues of his wife. The regime and its closely allied oligarchs also have scores of powerful public relations firms on retainer, say Joyal and others. “I think it’s extremely unlikely that the Russians would attempt to take out a Kremlin critic in the U.S.,” says Eric Rosenbach, a one-time military intelligence officer who was national security adviser to Sen. Chuck Hagel , R-Neb., until recently taking an appointment at Harvard.
A retired CIA operative with many years experience working directly against the Soviet KGB scoffed at the idea, even going so far as to suggest that Joyal, who years ago had a reputation of dramatizing the communist menace in America, of hyping the attack. Joyal, a member of the Capitol Police years ago, conceded that he’d “made some mistakes in my youth.” But he added — accurately — that “the idea that it was them [the Russians] came from other places.”
“I was out of it for 20 days, with a breathing tube up my nose, in the hospital,” he said. “When I gave my report to the police, I thought it was a local crime. Look at the facts,” he added. “There’s been no crime in that neighborhood.” But if there were Russian involvement, he added, there’s no incentive for Washington to publicize it. “Think of the ramifications,” he said, “for the U.S. government.”
LR: Has he written or spoken a single critical word about the Kremlin since the incident?