Dead Rat

There is a dead rat somewhere. The question is: Where?

For one thing, there is this business of the expulsion of Russian diplomats from western countries. Journalists everywhere keep clamouring for evidence of the Russian government’s involvement in the Salisbury incident, and Boris Johnson is quoted as replying that Russia’s complicity is “rather like the beginning of ‘Crime and Punishment’ in the sense that we are all confident of the culprit, and the only question is whether he will confess or be caught.” To which a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson is said to have asked Mr Johnson whether he managed to make it past the beginning of the novel, quoting another line from the book: “From a hundred rabbits you can’t make a horse, a hundred suspicions don’t make a proof.

Now they are saying that it’s “not just Salisbury”, it’s a “reckless pattern of behaviour”, and they mention Crimea. So let’s take a look at Crimea.

The 2014 referendum (which overwhelmingly supported reunification with Russia) was undoubtedly flawed and certainly very disputed. Nevertheless, there seems no doubt that only about 10% of the Crimean population spoke Ukrainian as their native language at the time and that the majority of Crimea’s inhabitants have considered themselves ethnically Russian for a very long time (67% in the 1989 census, 60% in 2001 and 65% in 2014). In addition, after the fall of the Soviet Union, exiled Crimean Tartars started returning and made up more than 10% of the population. (Source: Wikipedia 31.03.2018)

Much as the Crimea affair was irregular, the Russian side was very understandable given the country’s long-standing friction with Ukraine. Have we forgotten the sources of that friction? Have we for instance forgotten the pipeline through Ukraine from which Russian gas was “diverted” by Ukraine for years?

Do not misunderstand me: If the Russian government did indeed carry out a public liquidation in Salisbury, I’m all for the expulsion of Russian diplomats. It’s just that the Western hand in this matter does not seem clean. So whose hands are dirtiest?

Why is so little mention made, on the British side, of the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a case that seemed pretty cut and dried at the time. Even the Russian media thought FSB was responsible. This puzzles me, so I have been reading about it.

Both the murder itself and the British investigation into it appear to have been fairly clumsy affairs, for one thing, and if the Russian secret service was responsible, clumsiness would not have been expected. As for the British, they vociferously requested the extradition of a Russian suspect, failing to remind the media that no civilised country ever extradites its own citizens.

Russia, on the other hand, requested the extradition of Boris Berezhovsky, whom they claimed they suspected. Now there is every reason to suspect this was a front on their part, but there appears to be no doubt that Mr Berezhovsky was a crook who had helped himself most liberally to taxpayers assets when the Soviet Union was dissolved. True, he was not the only one to do so, but people who go to court claiming three billion pounds in damages, as he did in London in 2012, are not your ordinary paper thief.

The British refused to extradite him. Moreover, they have been protecting a number of other personages that are lining UK banks with their assets. I quote the Telegraph:

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, has ordered a retrospective investigation into past cases of “investor visas”, which are open to people who stake £2m or more in the UK.

The visas are a way for the super-rich to fast-track their residency and citizenship in Britain.

About 700 Russians were granted the gold-plated visas between 2008 and 2015, the Home Affairs Committee was told.

So Mr Berezhovsky was not the only Russian crook in the UK. Needless to say, the British do not extradite their citizens either, but granting rich Russians fast-track citizenship takes care of the issue. (I refer to Mr Berezhovsky in the past tense. The findings of his death coincided with suicide. Of course many people assume he was killed, but there was no evidence. The Russian state or the Mafia?)

The Telegraph politely refers to these “about 700” people as “super-rich”. Permit me to use a different word: “Mafia”. State-sponsored public liquidations have rather gone out of fashion, whereas Mafia liquidations are still bread and butter in many countries.

Finally, I wish to make it very clear that I’m not saying the Russians “didn’t do it”. I’m just saying that some pieces of the puzzle just don’t fit. There is a dead rat somewhere.

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