The Russians are evil and pose a clear and present danger to Britain. That’s at least what being spewed in the British press. Recent days have been a reminder of the frozen relations between Britain and Russia.
First there was the short but tense meeting between British PM Gordon Brown and Russian President Medvedev at the G8. The latter gave the former “short shrift” reports the Financial Times,
Mr Medvedev was in no mood to give ground in the hour-long talks, believing that Mr Brown had deliberately soured the atmosphere by raising the issues, instead of looking exclusively to the future. Russian diplomats were also furious at reports in the British press last week which suggested London was awash with Russian spies. Moscow believes the leak came from MI5, the British security service.
Then there is the belief among the British security service that Russia presents the third greatest threat to British security. The Slavic nation follows Al-Qaeda and Iran. Always a bridesmaid and never a bride. Oh, how we wish for the days of the Cold War. Or are the British suggesting an new Axis of Evil?
Well, one could ignore the British report and the Medvedev-Brown tiff as business as usual. That is if it wasn’t followed by some outlandish assertions regarding the Litvinenko Affair and the FSB’s apparent love for poison.
The BBC’s Mark Urban is claiming that a senior British security official believes that “the Litvinenko case to have had some state involvement; there are very strong indications that it was a state action.” Also thanks to MI5’s deftness, an assassination attempt against Boris Berezovsky was thwarted last June. The supposed assassin, a certain “Mr. A,” was arrested and deported on 21 June 2007. Berezovsky told Newsnight that Mr. A wasn’t put on trial because “British intelligence did not want to reveal the source who had warned them that Mr A was traveling to London.” Ian Flemming couldn’t have plotted it better.
True, the Litvinenko story went beyond sense months ago. So much so, I wouldn’t be surprised if Berezovsky digs up Litvinenko’s radioactive corpse and starts wheeling it around a la Weekend at Bernie’s just to squeeze more press out of it.
Litvinenko is back in the funny papers just in time to draw interest in Andrei Nekrasov’s anti-Putin diatribe, Poisoned by Polonium. I saw the film a few weeks ago and I have to say that it was two of the most excruciating hours I’ve spent in a long time.
The plot is simple. Here we have good matured Sasha Litvinenko, who after becoming disillusioned by the FSB’s brutality in Chechnya and corruption among his colleagues, dedicates his life exposing its corruption and criminality. Conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory follows. The FSB blew up those Moscow apartments in 1999. The FSB conspired to take over the Russian state. The FSB engaged in all sorts of smuggling, extortion and mafiaesque acts. The film clearly uses Litvinenko’s book Blowing Up Russia: The Secret Plot to Bring Back KGB Terror as its Bible and like any biblical tale is full of folklore and prophecy.
The problem with Nekrasov’s portrayal of power, corruption, and brutality in Russia’s secret police is that he lumps the real with the fiction. Real conspiracy with its theoretical musing. There is no doubt in my mind that FSB agents, especially in the 1990s had links to organized crime. Just like I believe that there are elements in the FSB who continue to do so. But to equate the completely outlandish with the probable and then have no evidence to actually prove either makes the viewer walk away thinking that the only nuts in the celluloid jar are Nekrasov and Litvinenko.
Moreover, the film isn’t really about Litvinenko’s poisoning at all. It is merely the cherry on top of a decade long plot by Putin and his gang. Images of a bald, feeble Sasha doesn’t appear until the last 15 minutes or so. Most of the time we see a fit Sasha incessantly rattling away at his ideas. So the viewer learns little about Litvinenko’s actual poisoning. The perpetrator, Putin through his FSB proxy, is merely a logical conclusion of a long string of nefarious deeds. Chief suspect Andrei Lugovoi does makes a short appearance where he speaks nonsense. His presence, however, allows for the film’s only intentional comedic moment. At one point he offers Nekrasov a cup of tea. The filmmaker politely declines.
There are some notable people missing. Sure Berezovsky is there and he always good for a few laughs. Surprisingly, BAB’s chief propagandist, Alexander Goldfarb, is absent. As is a single interview with a British or Russian investigator to corroborate any of Nekrasov’s or Litvinenko’s allegations. Nor is it ever explained how Litvinenko, who was never that high in the FSB hierarchy, was able to know so much. Perhaps what is most disturbing is that Anna Politkovskaya also comes off as a total nut. Not so much from what she says but the fact that she’s looks and moves like a crazy person.
If pressed to say one positive thing about Poisoned by Polonium, it would be that Nekrasov is a master visual propagandist. His film eye is excellent. He has a knack for angled shots that add drama and suspense. His editing of stock footage, news clips, and interviews makes for a visually interesting film even if the content is complete crap.
Even if Litvinenko has slid to the back pages, it seems that there might be another toxic corpse on the horizon to pin on the Russians. About a week ago, British super spook Alex Allan, who chairs Britain’s Government’s Joint Intelligence Committee, was found unconscious in his home covered in blood. He now lies in the hospital in a coma. Given Allan’s position, British investigators haven’t totally ruled out foul play. Such beliefs, whether they are true or not makes from some good kompromat. And if you’re looking for kompromat, look no forward than the Sun, Britain’s newspaper of nonsense.
“Top security expert” Chris Dobson told the Sun for sordid “Did Russians or al-Qaeda poison Britain’s top spy?” that Allen is a prime target simply by virtue of his job to oversee and coordinate “every aspect of [the British” intelligence community.” Dobson continued,
“The nature of his sudden illness, if it is an assassination attempt, points towards the FSB, successors of Russia’s KGB. They are the masters of assassination by poison.
“They were blamed by Britain for the death of Alexander Litvinenko by radioactive polonium poisoning in London in 2006. And anti-Russian Vicktor Yashenko was horribly disfigured by poison which almost killed him during the election which made him President of the Ukraine.
“So Mr Putin, the former KGB colonel who runs Russia, ‘has form’. And he has become increasingly aggressive towards Britain, accusing us of espionage plots against Russia. Al-Qaeda is another suspect.
They would see his death as a great victory, fulfilling Osama Bin Laden’s threat to strike at the heart of the ‘infidel enemy’. What better target than the man whose job is dedicated to wiping them out?”
“He is therefore a prime target. The nature of his sudden illness, if it is an assassination attempt, points towards the FSB, successors of Russia’s KGB. They are the masters of assassination by poison.”
So I guess it’s just a matter of picking your poison. Al-Qaeda or the FSB. Or maybe they are just working together! Now there’s a plot for Poisoned by Polonium II.