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RUSSIA’S ASSASSINATIONS ABROAD
17th July 2018 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pmFree
SPEAKERS: Marina Litvinenko, activist and campaigner; Luke Harding, Guardian correspondent; and Giles Udy, historian and author
During Vladimir Putin’s time in power a number of his critics and opponents have been murdered – both inside and outside of Russia. The poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March 2018 brought this issue back to the headlines. It recalled the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 and led to renewed questions about the Kremlin’s activities in the UK and its assassinations abroad, more broadly.
By kind invitation of The Rt Hon. Ben Bradshaw MP, the Henry Jackson Society is delighted to invite you to an event with Marina Litvinenko, Luke Harding, and Giles Udy. This distinguished panel will draw on their expertise and personal experience to put Russia’s actions in context.
Marina Litvinenko is an activist, campaigner and the widow of Alexander Litvinenko. Marina graduated from the Industrial Petrochemical and Gas Institute as an Economist-Engineer. In 1990 she began to teach choreography, and married Alexander Litvinenko in 1994. After Alexander fled Russia in 2000, Marina and their son Anatoly followed and received political asylum in the UK, living in London for the next six years. On November 2006, Alexander died from radioactive Polonium-210 poisoning. Marina also suffered symptoms of radioactive poisoning. Marina pursued justice for her husband through the founding of the Litvinenko Justice Foundation and continues to speak out for the rights of Russian nationals. Marina co-authored Death of a Dissident, published in 2007, with Alex Goldfarb.
Luke Harding is a journalist, writer and award-winning correspondent with the Guardian. He has reported from Delhi, Berlin and Moscow and covered wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. Between 2007 and 2011 he was the Guardian’s Moscow bureau chief. In February 2011 the Kremlin deported him from the country in the first case of its kind since the Cold War. In 2017, Luke’s book; Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win was published simultaneously in ten countries.
Giles Udy is a historian who has spent the past fifteen years studying Soviet Communism, with a particular focus on the repression of its citizens and its sponsorship of revolution and subversion abroad. In the process he has acquired wider expertise in relation to Russia and Eastern Europe today – where, as the Russian Federation seeks to re-establish itself as an imperial power, the parallels with the Soviet era are many. His original work is on the Soviet gulag and in pursuit of that research Giles has travelled thousands of miles across Russia, visiting some of the most isolated parts of the country. He is a member of the council of the Keston Institute, Oxford, and holds an MBA from the Cass Business School in London. He is author of Labour and the Gulag: Russia and the Seduction of the British Left (Biteback).
On the 17th of July, the Henry Jackson Society was pleased to welcome Marina Litvinenko, a campaigner and the widow of Alexander Litvinenko, Luke Harding, a journalist who between 2007 and 2011 was the Guardian’s Moscow bureau chief, and Giles Udy, a historian who has spent the past fifteen years studying Soviet Communism.
By kind invitation of Ben Bradshaw MP, the three speakers led an insightful and fascinating discussion on the brutality of Russia’s regime at home and abroad, drawing on their expertise and personal experience to put Russia’s actions into political and historical context and what this means for the West.
Mrs. Litvinenko poignantly touched upon the actions of the Soviet Union’s Committee for State Security (KGB) and its successor, the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB), and how the expectation of change throughout the Russian secret service has failed. In essence, she discussed how the FSB, like the KGB beforehand, assassinates its ‘enemies’ today. An example she used was that of former Chechen President, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, who was assassinated in Doha in 2004 by a car bomb. The two Russian men who carried out the attack did so having received a direct order from Russia’s Ministry of Defence. They were found guilty in court, but were later part of a prisoner exchange. Upon returning to Russia, they were welcomed as heroes in Russia.
This was stressed by Mrs Litvinenko as a crime not taken seriously, and her subsequent examples illustrated this. In 2006, Russia passed two laws on anti-terrorism and counter-extremism, ensuring that Russian agents could commit lethal action abroad without investigations. This in turn, leading to the poisoning of her husband by polonium-210. As he died, his killers were idolised in Russia, given immunity, and eventually receiving political honours in 2015.
Luke Harding followed on from this, discussing his journalistic experiences following Alexander’s death. This centred on his expulsion from Russia in 2011 due to his attempt to investigate the assassination. He went on to hold that the Kremlin were protecting the killers, with Marina finding it very difficult to find answers not only in Russia, but also in the UK. This changed however, with the 2016 Litvinenko inquiry. Due to Marina’s determination, the inquiry was published, providing clear evidence of a radioactive trail from Soho and Mayfair across Europe. Ultimately, it was concluded that the orders came directly from President Putin, demonstrating his willingness to kill his enemies.
Luke went on to discuss the recent poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. Like the murder of Litvinenko, Russia denies its involvement, but the incident has all the hallmarks of a Russian orchestrated attack. It demonstrates that Russia is using a large number of tools to destabilise the west, via not only political hacking and supporting populist, far-right movements, but by murder.
The discussion was concluded by Giles Udy, who succinctly provided historical context to recent events, showing the clear continuity between the Soviet Union and Russia. Like the Soviet Union, Russia today sees itself as a bulwark against the West. Like the Soviet authorities, Russia’s authorities see themselves as the ‘guardian of the people’. Yet in reality, they want to protect themselves rather than the Russian people. Like the Soviet Union, Russia has a reckless disregard for human life; enemies of the state can be killed, and those who oppose the regime are silenced.
In light of this, Giles concluded by highlighting the real problem we face today; how to respond. That there is a long-standing culture in Russia to target enemies. Like in the Soviet Union, political murder has been institutionalised. It is still going on today, and in order for change, the issue must be addressed.