Friday, December 08, 2006

Who Needs LeCarre

I'm not going to read spy novels anymore. LeCarre can't compete with the ongoing cloak-and-dagger mystery surrounding the polonium-210 murder in London of renegade Russian spy and Putin-government detractor, Alexander Litvinenko.

The stakes in solving this mystery are high. On his deathbed Litvinenko fingered the person he was sure engineered his poisoning.... Russia's Decider.... President Putin himself.

Why would Litvinenko be targeted?

Perhaps because Litvinenko was investigating the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, or because he claimed that the Russian government itself blew up Moscow apartment buildings in 1999, killing hundreds of civilians, in order to blame it on the Chechens and provoke the second Chechen war.

But this real-life thriller .... government-sponsored murder and dirty tricks, disgruntled spies, disinformation, polonium contamination everywhere from jet liners to the bowels of Moscow.... may never have a final chapter. State-ordered assassinations seldom do.

In "That Murder in London," Charles Krauthammer argues that the reason for the messy and brazen murder of Litvinenko was to send a message.... that this is what awaits anyone who goes against the Russian government. "They'll get you even in London, where there is the rule of law. And they'll get you even if it makes negative headlines for a month.... It is the ultimate in deterrence."

Today, WaPo reports "Russian Tied to Ex-Spy Also Ill From Radiation." In true Mafioso style.... make sure no one talks. Dmitry Kovtun who met with Litvinenko just before he succumed to radiation exposure, now himself has "an acute form of radiation sickness, with internal contamination.... affecting the liver, the kidneys, and the intestines."

It would all make thrilling reading, if it was fiction. The only fiction is that Russia hasn't returned to its deadly ways.

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