A chilling look at the Putin regime’s murderous suppression of its critics.
In 2017, observes Guardian foreign correspondent Harding (The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man, 2014, etc.), the Russian president will likely stand again for the office, and winning it—as he certainly will—will put him in the running to be the longest-serving ruler that nation has seen. Meanwhile, under his regime, Russia has “gone from a semi-democracy into something approaching a dictatorship.” No one has been more aware of that transformation than Russia’s journalists, one of whom, Alexander Litvinenko (1962-2006), had been assembling evidence of Putin’s links to Russian organized crime, combining to form a “mafia state.” Litvinenko was silenced by assassins who used polonium to poison him, the first such case in medical history. Litvinenko happened to be in London at the time, which means that the assassins had to enter a country with which Russia was not at war in order to conduct murder, making the case a matter of national security interest. However, Harding writes with mounting indignation, the British government steadily backed down in the face of Putin’s continued aggressions not just against his own citizens, but also in the Crimea. By the author’s account, British Prime Minister David Cameron effectively helped cover up what had by then become the well-known fact of official murder, determined not to harm trade interests. The British government, said one observer, was worried about Putin’s ire, while British intelligence agents were worried about meeting Litvinenko’s fate; Putin was “concerned about being called a mafia boss.” In this fast-paced book, Harding, who was expelled from the Kremlin while serving as the Guardian’s Moscow bureau chief, covers all the bases while exposing the weakness and accommodationism of the now-departed British leadership.
Hard-hitting and timely given Russia’s continued sway in international politics as well as its documented influence over an incoming American administration that is also hostile to the press.