Mark Galeotti Mark Galeotti

The truth behind Putin’s hit lists

If we are to believe the gossip, Vladimir Putin draws up death lists the way ordinary people jot down their shopping. And bang on schedule, as Joe Biden makes a point of labelling him a ‘killer,’ not one but two death lists materialise from parts unknown.

This weekend the Daily Mirror — not, it has to be said, usually a Kremlinologist’s ‘must-read’ — claimed that Putin is ‘now beside himself with rage’ and is drawing up lists of would-be victims, saying ‘we have long arms. No scum can hide from us.’ The quotes come from an unnamed office of Russia’s much-feared Federal Security Service (FSB), which is apparently planning how to execute Putin’s laundry list of kidnappings and murders.

Two of the alleged targets are key members of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s team: Vladimir Ashurkov, the director of his Foundation Against Corruption, now in asylum in London, and Leonid Volkov, Navalny’s chief of staff, now in Lithuania. Then there are two rich Russian critics of Putin’s also living in London, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Evgeny Chichvarkin, as well as US-born investor and self-declared number one enemy of Putin, Bill Browder. Rounding out the list is Christopher Steele, the former MI6 officer whose salacious and dubious allegations about Donald Trump and his alleged Russian links generated such a storm.

Not mentioned in the snatch of Russian text provided but listed in the Mirror article is Boris Karpichkov, a defector from the FSB. He claimed to be on a similar hit list, communicated in a similar way, that included Sergei Skripal, although he appears to have publicised this only after the Salisbury poisoning.

We need to make sure we can tell the difference between a Bond film and real life

Apparently Volkov and Khodorkovsky are to be kidnapped and spirited into Russia. Ashurkov and Chichvarshin are to be poisoned with Novichok nerve agent.

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