Tuesday, May 22, 2007

As If We Could Have Forgotten - From London with Polonium

Despite the unraveling in the Litvinenko case, my opinion on the issue has not changed. The fierce critic of the Kremlin, of whose existence no one knew until he became poisoned, was most likely killed due to his involvement in a plethora of shady deals, including those with Mr. Berezovsky, and his partners, Chechen terrorists, businessmen, and former security agents around Europe and Russia. I do not have a clue of who poisoned Mr. Litvinenko, but it seems strange for Mr. Lugovoi, who is now the prime suspect according to the Crown Prosecution Service, to have personally killed the former spy. Mr. Lugovoi, as reported by the Financial Times, is a flourishing businessman/entrepreneur, with former ties to the KGB and the Federal Protection Service. Does it not seem strange for a wealthy businessman to personally travel to London to kill his former business partner, and knowingly leave traces of poisoning around Europe for everyone to notice? This is especially strange since Mr. Lugovoi has had experience heading security organizations for Russia's state-run ORT TV Channel. As Copydude reports in his blog:

Lugovoi is a security professional. Professionals use fast acting toxins that don’t leave traces. End of story. Professional assassins don’t turn up for assassinations with their own passports and register at hotels in their own names. While millionaires like Lugovoi have people handle any dirty work. He doesn’t even clean his own shoes.

There is not much left to discuss in this story. Britain has created another stalemate situation with Russia, whose constitution clearly prohibits extradition of Russian nationals to foreign states, and leaves their fate to the trial by Russian law in Russia. Despite British officials claiming Russia's obligation to certain European extradition treaties, it has the full legal force to follow its constitution, thus Mr. Lugovoi will never be tried in the first place. Russia still is at odds with Britain for holding two characters highly welcome in the Russian prosecutor's office, Mr. Berezovsky, for serious fraud allegations and threats to mount a violent overthrow of the nationally elected Russian government, and Mr. Zakaev, for direct connections with Chechen terrorists. Britain also has the full legal right not to extradite these people who are granted political asylum in Great Britain. Any talk of an exchange of suspects is also out of the question, as it would primarily discredit the British side in the face of Europe and the US for obvious reasons.

Britain was forced by public opinion boosted by the ballooning of the issue in the worldwide media to bring the investigation to a close; this was a promise that British PM Tony Blair made in November of last year. Yet Britain must ask itself what benefit it wants to derive from the affair in the days to come, and how far it is willing to freeze up relations with Russia as a result of this case. As The Times reports today in a commentary piece:
Russian prosecutors left open the possibility that he could be tried in his homeland, a way of offering a compromise, should Russia want, although not one in which Britain might have much confidence.

Such an outcome seems the best for both countries, resulting in the minimum total loss of credibility on both sides and the marginal victory for the rule of law, if the trial of Mr. Lugovoi is held in Russia under Russian law, yet there is little prospect of that happening.

No comments: