A scathing indictment of Vladimir Putin’s “police state” that offers compelling evidence of his absolute suppression of any opposition or exposure of the state’s corruption.
Knight (How the Cold War Began: The Igor Gouzenko Affair and the Hunt for Soviet Spies, 2006, etc.) builds a convincing case for high-level Russian ordering of political murders, from liberal Duma member Galina Starovoitova to outspoken journalist Anna Politkovskaya to opposition leader Boris Nemtsov—among many others. The murder of Kremlin opponents has been a robust tradition since czarist times, gaining Bolshevik impetus under Lenin’s Cheka and ferocious momentum under Stalin’s Great Purge and the notorious long arm of the KGB. Though Boris Yeltsin dissolved the KGB, it was reconfigured by political necessity as the FSB, with former KGB lieutenant Putin as director. Knight looks at the so-called siloviki (those running the “power ministries”) as holding not only the power in the country, but the secrets about one another that maintain that power. When these secrets were revealed—e.g., by journalists or brave government officials investigating Russia’s brutal crackdown in Chechnya or the 1999 “apartment bombings”—the victims were marked and murdered Mafia-style, their deaths blamed on “terrorists.” The 2006 death by poison of former KSB officer–turned-whistleblower Alexander Litvinenko in London created an international scandal. However, as shockingly blatant as the death was—polonium 210 was such a rare and lethal substance that it could only have been procured by the FSB—the lack of political pressure on the Putin regime by the U.S. and elsewhere has been puzzling and outrageous. Essentially, Knight astutely asserts, Putin brazenly invites suspicions on Kremlin involvement “as a way to intimidate those who oppose him.” The author also examines the story of the Tsarnaev brothers, who perpetuated the Boston Marathon bombings and had traveled in Russia, and she concludes with the rule of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who, on Putin’s direction, has taken the police state to Stalinist proportions.
A vivid, chilling portrait of a Russia grown “scary and unpredictable.”