Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Putin’s Year in Scandals

Masha Gessen, NYT
JAN. 6, 2016

GOING into 2016, Vladimir V. Putin is a very different politician from the one he was a year ago. His most significant changes have little to do with what he has done in the last 12 months. Instead they were wrought by the justice systems of two foreign countries — Britain and Spain — and a slew of Russian and Western journalists and activists. Thanks to all these disparate efforts, there has emerged a vivid, comprehensive and, most important, public picture of allegations of corruption and connections to organized crime that in the past had been the province of rumors or maverick investigations publishers wouldn’t dare to print.

Starting in early 2015, there were the 34 days of hearings in London about the death of Alexander V. Litvinenko, the rogue Russian secret-police agent who died of polonium poisoning in England in 2006. The possibility that the Russian government and Mr. Putin himself may have been behind the murder had long been discussed by journalists and detailed in books, but it took almost a decade for it to be raised in a legal venue.

The hearings, held at the request of the Home Office, formally were “an inquiry,” rather than a trial, but they took place in a courthouse and were presided over by a (retired) judge, Sir Robert Owen. (A trial would have been impossible because Russia has refused to extradite the two men suspected in the murder.) Russian officials snubbed the proceedings. The British lawyer Richard Horwell, representing the Metropolitan Police Service, raged in his closing statement: “The Kremlin cannot exactly complain if the eyes of the world look to it for responsibility for Litvinenko’s murder,” adding that “of all of Litvinenko’s targets, Putin was the one most frequently in his sights.” Justice Owen is expected to release his report on Jan. 21.

(More here.)

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