Cheat-Seeking Missles

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Litvinenko: Blair Backsliding Under Putin's Pressure?

Tony Blair may well be signaling that whoever poisoned Alexander Litvineko with polium-210 is going to get away with it.

He concluded a cabinet meeting Thursday, saying “the most important issue” in the investigation of the assassination of Litvineko was likely to be Britain’s long-term relationship with Moscow.

The comment came after it became public that the Russian government "took exception" to Britain's failure to place a gag on Litvineko's final communications, particularly his deathbed letter accusing Vladamir Putin of killing him. The Times of London also quotes another cabinet minister on the matter:
Another minister present said: “It caused some alarm that this case is obviously causing tension with the Russians. They are too important for us to fall out with them over this.”
Will the death of one short-time British citizen with ties both to the Russian government and the Russian crime world be allowed to get in the way of British-Russian relations? It should get very much in the way.

The assassination of Litvineko was too brash to remain unsolved, as evidenced by the trail of polonium-210 that's been traced hopscotching across London, showing up in 12 separate locations. Solving the crime is now as much a matter of British national sovereignty as it is the solving of a crime.

But according to the Times of London, Blair's government appears to be backpeddling from a full investigation:
John Reid, the home secretary, told the cabinet “not to make assumptions” about Litvinenko’s death, pointing out that the former spy had been “involved with” organised crime as well as the KGB, Chechens and exiled Russian oligarchs.
Whether or not Putin was involved, if the Brits don't conduct a thorough investigation, it will signal to him that he can be brutal and will, swing his weight around, and expect to receive a walk. And that's an elixer for despots.

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