This is what Russian president Putin said just two days after Skripal was poisoned with a nerve agent:
"Those who serve us with poison will eventually swallow it and poison themselves" pic.twitter.com/Qqdz83ElEU
— Kremlin Trolls CI (@KremlinTrolls) March 8, 2018
News of the poisoning of a former Russian military intelligence officer in Britain came slowly to state-run television in Russia.
For almost two days after the sudden hospitalization of Sergei Skripal, who has lived in England since being swapped for nearly a dozen alleged Russian spies in 2010, the incident was all over British front pages and led newscasts.
In Russia, the story was picked up by online news sites and newspapers, including Moscow’s prominent radio station, Ekho Moskvy.
But there was little mention of it on the main national TV channels, which are overwhelmingly the main medium by which Russians get their news.
That was until the evening of March 7, when Channel One’s main evening current affairs program, Vremya Novostei, reported on it, with a less-than-subtle commentary.
Skripal is “by training, a traitor to his country,” host Kirill Kleimenov said. “I don’t wish death on anyone,” he added, “but for purely educational purposes, for anyone who dreams of such a career, I have a warning: being a traitor is one of the most dangerous professions in the world.”
Though couched as a commentary, the prominence of the statement, and its placement in the evening newscast of the country’s main national TV channel, dovetailed with the adamant denials of Russian involvement, given by the Foreign Ministry and other official sources. [Continue reading…]
The BBC, reporting in February on Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB, formerly led by Vladimir Putin), notes:
The headquarters in central Moscow is the Lubyanka – a symbol of FSB power. The KGB interrogated political prisoners there in Soviet times.
The FSB’s head Alexander Bortnikov reports directly to President Putin.
In 2000, Mr Bortnikov’s predecessor Nikolai Patrushev called his FSB operatives “modern nobles”. On becoming president, Mr Putin gave top posts to former spies from St Petersburg.
Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a leading Russian sociologist, says that “we are witnessing a restoration of the power of the KGB” under Mr Putin.
During his first term as president, about one-third of government officials were “siloviki” – or “security guys”, she said.
Most of the elite – including Mr Bortnikov – are now subject to EU and/or US sanctions because of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. Most have acquired huge fortunes and control key Russian resources.
In the 1990s Mr Putin oversaw foreign trade in St Petersburg and some of his associates from that time have been linked to organised crime. Those links are documented by US researcher Karen Dawisha in her book Putin’s Kleptocracy.
The allegations also surfaced in the Litvinenko inquiry and in a major Spanish police investigation into the Russian mafia.
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