For the past dozen years, Russian President Vladimir Putin has employed his spies as assassins in the West, beginning with the murder of the defector Aleksandr Litvinenko in London in late 2006. Kremlin killers have left a trail of bodies in several Western countries, but above all the United Kingdom. Although Russian spies have made only modest efforts to cover their tracks in these crimes, the consequences for Moscow have been distinctly limited. No Western country has been willing to stand up to Putin and his increasingly gangster regime—until now.
In response to the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, a 66-year-old former Russian military intelligence colonel, who, along with his 33-year-old daughter Yulia, received a near-lethal dose of a nerve agent on March 4 in Salisbury, England, the British government is finally showing resolve in confronting outrageous Russian crimes perpetrated on their soil. As I explained a week ago, there is no serious doubt that the Kremlin stands behind the would-be hit on the Skripals:
Vladimir Putin has resumed wetwork in a fashion not witnessed in the Kremlin since the days of Joseph Stalin. Putin’s assassinations abroad over the last 15 years have been more aggressive than anything done during the Russian president’s KGB career. Moreover, his views on turncoats are well known: “Traitors always end badly,” he famously explained. In 2010, the year Skripal was swapped to Britain, Putin chillingly stated, “Traitors will kick the bucket. Trust me. These people betrayed their friends, their brothers-in-arms. Whatever they got in exchange for it, those 30 pieces silver they were given, they will choke on them.”
The British government apparently agrees with my assessment, since Prime Minister Theresa May this week made two major announcements relating to the Skripal case. First, on Monday, May announced that, based on forensic tests, the agent used to poison the Skripals was a nerve agent called Novichok, which is indisputably of Russian origin. The prime minister added it was therefore “highly likely” that Moscow stood behind this “unlawful use of force.” May gave the Kremlin until last night to provide a “credible response” to this accusation.
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