Putin's Aide Says Recent Murders of Dissidents Are Plot Against Russia

Mos News
Jan. 21, 2007

A senior aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the murders of journalist Anna Politkovskaya and former spy Alexander Litvinenko are part of an attack by powerful groups against the head of state, the Reuters news agency reported on Thursday.

Litvinenko’s death in London on November 23 from polonium poisoning followed the murder in Moscow of prominent journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Both were critics of Putin.

“Polonium-Litvinenko-Politkovskaya are all linked together,” RIA news agency on Thursday quoted Putin aide Igor Shuvalov as saying in Berlin.

“There are strong groups which have joined together to constantly attack the president’s line and him personally,” Shuvalov said. “None of these murders are in our interests.”

The murders of Litvinenko and Politkovskaya raised concerns inside Russia about the political stability Putin has been credited with enforcing after the chaos of the 1990s and the fall of the Soviet Union.

The Kremlin has said Litvinenko’s lucid deathbed statement accusing Putin of his death was nonsense.

But the murders scuffed Putin’s image abroad and strained Moscow’s relations with the European Union and the United States.

Some pro-Kremlin politicians have suggested Putin’s opponents abroad might be seeking to use the murders to muddy the Kremlin’s image. Shuvalov did not name the people who could be seeking to undermine Putin.

Key Putin opponents include tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who lives in London, and Leonid Nevzlin, a former top manager of the YUKOS business empire, who lives in Israel.

Both fled Russia after what they called Kremlin-backed persecution. Russian prosecutors have said they want to question Berezovsky in the Litvinenko case.

The Prosecutor-General said last month that Nevzlin, a business partner of jailed oil baron Mikhail Khodorkovsky, could have ordered Litvinenko’s murder. Nevzlin’s spokesman called the accusations ridiculous.

Politkovskaya, a 48-year-old mother of two, was shot dead outside her apartment in central Moscow on October 7. Politkovskaya had won prizes for her coverage of Russia’s war with rebels in the southern province of Chechnya.

“We take the murder of Politkovskaya as a provocative act,” Shuvalov said. “The president has given the orders to solve this crime. It is stupid to link this murder to the leadership of the country.”

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