Putin forced into 'mobilisation by stealth' says Chris Newton
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As Putin’s war in Ukraine rages on, his elite inner circle has considered poisoning him to remove him from power and install a successor, according to claims by the Chief Directorate of Intelligence at Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence. The alleged plot by the Kremlin strongman’s ‘Siloviki’ security chiefs — who help run Russia — could include “poisoning, sudden disease or any other coincidence”, a Ukrainian spokesperson claimed in March. Poisoning is believed to be a popular assassination method for the Russian government, which famously killed KGB defector Alexander Litvinenko in London with radioactive polonium; used the Novichok nerve agent in the Salisbury attacks; and is thought to be behind the attack on Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Despite Putin “probably” having authorised the attacks, the Russian President is incredibly touchy about the subject, and once reacted angrily to a joke that he was involved in poisoning Litvinenko, who died after eating sushi and drinking tea.
The former President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, recalled having dinner with Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who rubbed his Russian counterpart up the wrong way with his jibe.
Recalling the tense encounter for BBC documentary, ‘Putin: The New Tsar’, he said: “I was on my way to London for a meeting with Tony Blair.
“Litvinenko had been murdered a few days before that and everybody was talking about it.
“We had a stopover in Minsk and had a banquet. There was Putin in the middle. I was on his right hand side and Lukashenko on his left.
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“Lukashenko has this habit of poking Putin from time to time and even making fun of him.”
He continued: “So, he started to say, ‘Well, Mikheil, so here you are leaving from London and you should really be well fed.
“‘I don’t advise you to eat anything in London. And I especially don’t advise you to eat any sushi. Don’t even go close to sushi.
“‘The safest thing to eat from, which you for sure won’t be poisoned, is from the plate in front of Vladimir’.”
Lukashenko was then said to have added to his joke by taking Putin’s plate, implying that only the Russian President’s food would be safe.
Saakashvili said: “So, he takes the plate from in front of Putin and gives it to me. And so, Putin suddenly drops the fork.
“He says, ‘Well, I have nothing to do with the murder of this Litvinenko guy’ and he gets visibly annoyed.
“‘Who the hell needed Litvinenko? He was nobody. Why would I ever murder him’. It really got under his skin.”
The Kremlin has consistently denied that it was behind the murder of Litvinenko, however a recent judgement found that Russia was responsible for the killing on foreign soil.
The European court of human rights (ECHR) ruled in September that it was beyond reasonable doubt that Dmitry Kovtun – who died of COVID-19 this month – and Andrei Lugovoi killed the ex-KGB man.
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The pair, who reportedly denied being involved in the poisoning, were found to have acted as “agents of the respondent state [Russia]”.
In its judgement, the ECHR said: “The court considers that adverse inferences may be drawn from the respondent state’s refusal to disclose any documents relating to the domestic investigation.
“Noting the government’s failure to displace the prima facie evidence of state involvement, the court cannot but conclude that Mr Litvinenko was poisoned by Mr Lugovoi and Mr Kovtun acting as agents of the respondent state.
“The act complained of is attributable to that state.”
The court ordered Russia to pay the applicant, Litvinenko’s wife, Marina, €100,000 (£86,000) in damages.
She said the case had been about getting justice and holding Putin accountable, rather than making money.
‘Putin: The New Tsar’ is available to stream on BBC iPlayer.
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