18.11.2015 | Halya Coynash

On Russia’s selective ’retribution’ for acts of terrorism


Andrei Lugovoi, Russian State Duma Deputy and the UK’s chief suspect in the killing of Kremlin whistle-blower Alexander Litvinenko has promised “inevitable retribution” for the terrorists who blew up Russian A321 and blamed “European tolerance” allowing “a flow of migrants” into Europe for the terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov 13.   

The irony could not be more pronounced.  Litvinenko, who like Lugovoi was a former FSB [Security Service] officer, died a hideous death from radioactive polonium in 2006 not very long after publishing a book in which he accused the FSB of being behind the apartment block bombings in 1999 which killed several hundred people and helped Putin come to power.  That book was recently placed on the List of extremist materials in Russia, a few months after Lugovoi received a state award from the Presidentfor courage and daring demonstrated in carrying out work duties in conditions linked with risk to life”. *

    Litvinenko shortly before his death

Lugovoi became an MP shortly after Britain’s request for his extradition was turned down, and he is now the deputy head of the State Duma Committee on Security and Countering Corruption.  It was clearly in this capacity, and standing in front of the State Duma sign that he gave a long interview, entitled “You shouldn’t believe the USA” to Rossiya 24.   

After more than a week of vague statements, denials and furious conspiracy theorising, Russia announced on Nov 17 that the Metrojet plane which crashed in the Sinai Peninsula on Oct 31 had been destroyed by a bomb. 

Lugovoi called this a “monstrous crime” and said that Russia’s reaction must follow two principles: no negotiating with terrorists and inevitable retribution.  He agreed with unnamed government officials in saying that Russia must increase its activity in the Middle East, including in Syria. 

There were certain key messages, one being that Russia has allegedly made huge strides in fighting terrorism – through the “effective work” of the FSB, through legislation, etc.  The A321 attack is presented as “unique” and as due to “treachery of local security services”.  Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov reports that the Kremlin’s leader has ordered “those guilty exterminated”.  There is no indication as to how ‘guilt’ is to first be determined.  Nor, of course, is there any suggestion that the terrorist act, if such it be, may have been linked with Russia’s active role over the last month in bombing areas under the control mostly of groups opposing Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, including, but by no means exclusively ISIS.

Lugovoi goes on, as have other pro-Kremlin politicians, to point out that Europe is also not safe and he directly blames “European tolerance”.   He makes no mention of the thousands of refugees fleeing the Assad regime and the bombing in Syria, and speaks only of a “flow of migrants” which Europeans supposedly clap their hands over. 

This, of course, enables him to ignore such shocking violations of international law as the continued presence at a Moscow airport of an entire family of Syrian refugees whom Russia is simply refusing to allow into the country.

Lugovoi basically sings Russia’s praise, suggesting that the FSB’s role should be an example for other countries.  The latter, he suggests, must consider closing borders. Numerous reports on pro-Kremlin media have broadcast predictions that France and / or Europe will be forced now to resort to other restrictions on people’s freedom - doubtless also following Russia’s role model. 

Asked about an anti-terror coalition, Lugovoi says that Russia’s only ally was its own army and fleet.  Lugovoi, who spoke extremely emphatically on all other subjects seems nervous here, and waffles only about some possible “temporary” measures.  He does, however, return to a standard theme in Russian propaganda, by saying that the USA will always do everything to reduce safety for Russia and “our western partners”, and that the more “mess” there is between Russia and European countries, the better for the USA who should not be believed. 

Lugovoi has long spoken and, doubtless, acted, in unison with Russia’s leaders and his key statements here are similar to those made by others.  It is almost certainly no accident that Putin should have taken the opportunity to pass into force a plan on developing the military until 2020.  While spending on medicine has dipped catastrophically in Russia, together with the standard of living, more and more money is being spent on the military.  Any Levada Centre public survey will make it quite clear whom Russians deem their enemies.  ISIS has seldom received a mention.

With respect to Russia’s ‘principles’ of not negotiating with terrorists and “inevitable retribution”, there are many bitter words that can be written about the Kremlin’s funding and support for militants, a large number of them from Russia, responsible for hostage-taking, forced disappearances, extra-judicial executions, etc. in Crimea and Donbas.

There will be cases before the European Court of Human Rights and, almost certainly, the International Criminal Court over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and behaviour in other parts of Ukraine.

    Footage on July 17, 2014 which Life News reported as a Ukrainian military plane downed by militants

It is Russia that has blocked an international investigation into the downing of the Malaysian MH17 airliner by a Russian-made BUK missile.  This was reported on Russian television as having been downed by Kremlin-backed militants with those reports and incriminating footage only removed after it became clear that a passenger plane had been downed, not a Ukrainian military aircraft.

A European Court of Human Rights judgement is now awaited over one of the most monstrous terrorist acts in the Russian Federation.  The Court in Strasbourg has already accepted that Russia must answer for its failure to prevent the tragedy at the school in Beslan, North Ossetia in which 331 people died, more than half of them children. For over two days then Putin even lied about the number of people held hostage in the school, and it is known that the terrorists were so angered by the claim that they were not prepared to negotiate that they refused to give the children water.  There are serious grounds for believing that Anna Politkovskaya was poisoned to stop her negotiating, and that the explosions used to justify the storming of a building holding well over a thousand children, parents, grandparents and teachers, did not come from the terrorists. There was no ‘inevitable retribution” and Russia has, on the contrary, done everything to block a proper investigation and bring those responsible to answer. 


*   The results of a public inquiry into Litvinenko’s murder are due out soon.  Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun left traces of radioactive polonium everywhere they went, both before and after the meeting with Litvinenko where he drank the fatal substance in a cup of tea.  One key point made repeatedly through the hearings was that radioactive polonium is not something that you can buy on the black market.

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