Over the past decade or so, a disturbing number of Russian nationals living in Britain have met untimely deaths. The victims – at least 14 – have been high-profile individuals, such as oligarch businessman Boris Berezovsky or former Kremlin security agent Alexander Litvinenko. All were living in Britain as exiles, and all were viewed as opponents of President Vladimir Putin’s government.
Invariably, British politicians and news media refer to the deaths of Russian émigrés as “proof” of Russian state “malign activity”. Putin in particular is accused of ordering “the hits” as some kind of vendetta against critics and traitors.
The claims of Russian state skulduggery have been reported over and over without question in the British media as well as US media. It has become an article-of-faith espoused by British and American politicians alike. “Putin is a killer,” they say with seeming certainty. There is simply no question about it in their assertions.
The claims have also been given a quasi-legal veracity, with a British government-appointed inquiry in the case of Alexander Litvinenko making a conclusion that his death in 2006 was “highly likely” the result of a Kremlin plot to assassinate. Putin was personally implicated in the death of Litvinenko by the official British inquiry. The victim was said to have been poisoned with radioactive polonium. Deathbed images of a bald-headed Litvinenko conjure up a haunting image of alleged Kremlin evil-doing.
Once the notion of Russian evil-doing is inculcated the public mind, then subsequent events can be easily invoked as “more proof” of what has already been “established”. Namely, so it goes, that the Russian state is carrying out assassinations on British territory.