Staunton, January 24 – Now that a British investigation has provided prima facie evidence that Vladimir Putin was behind the murder of Aleksandr Litvinenko, a Russian nationalist site has come up with an unusual defense: There was no murder but rather the just punishment of a traitor -- and so there should be no talk about murderers.
The editors of Russkaya Narodnaya Liniya, a portal that takes Orthodox Russian nationalist and Stalinist positions, says that because Litvinenko was a traitor to his country and its faith, his death was entirely justified and it doesn’t matter who ordered it or carried it out (ruskline.ru/news_rl/2016/01/23/ubijstvo_izmennika_eto_kara_ili_prestuplenie/).
Because of the information war “being conducted against Russia,” the editors say, “it is necessary to speak the truth and call things by their proper names.” Litvinenko was a senior KGB and FSB officer – a lieutenant colonel as Vladimir Putin once was -- and violated his oath by cooperating with foreign intelligence services.
Russian history, they continue, “knows many cases of defectors who fled abroad both in Soviet times and before the revolution, but far from all of them, even when they knew state secrets cooperated with the special services of states hostile to Russia. Litvinenko, as the English special services testify, cooperated with the and that means … [he] became a traitor.”
Consequently, “whoever killed Litvinenko, FSB officers as the English investigation thinks or some other forces who were concerned that Litvinenko will begin to talk (there are many versions) is a secondary question in this case,” the Russkaya narodnaya liniya editors insist.
“In London a traitor to Russia was killed.” More than that, they say, there is evidence that before his death he accepted Islam, thus betraying the national faith of Russia.
Thus it is appropriate to talk about retribution against a traitor than about a murder and to refuse to engage in speculation as to who carried it out or who ordered it. That simply doesn’t matter, the site argues. Someone who deserved to be executed for treason was executed, and that is all that matters. No one should think otherwise.
Stalin famously observed “no person, no problem.” Putin has updated that to claim that if a killing is not a murder, then there are no murderers. That may convince some in Russia and in the West just as Stalin’s suggestion did. At the very least, this line represents the latest Moscow effort to muddy the waters. But ultimately it shouldn’t and won’t convince many.