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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 November 2006, 16:06 GMT
Litvinenko affair divides Russian press
Russian press

The death in London of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko gives the Russian press much to think about. Some view the resultant furore in the West as an attempt to put pressure on Moscow; others see the death as an implicit warning to other defectors of the 'long hand of the Kremlin'.


Revulsion is the feeling one is left with given the hullabaloo in the West to do with Alexander Litvinenko's illness and death. The man's body has been turned into a virtual battering ram with which Russia's standing is being pounded for all it is worth.

Alvina Kharchenko et al in KOMMERSANT

Western experts have been unanimous that Mr Litvinenko's death will affect Russia's image... But not all Western analysts think that the ex-colonel in the FSB was thus made to pay for his criticism of the Russian regime... The idea of a plot against Vladimir Putin was also supported yesterday by the Russian Federation president's aide, Sergey Yastrzhembskiy... indeed, almost all of the Russian president's recent visits to the West have been overshadowed by the reports of high-profile deaths.


The potential list of those who stood to benefit from Litvinenko's death is a long one. One thing is certain, however: a scandal such as this was not in the interests of the Russian authorities in the run-up to the signing of a new agreement with the EU. It is now being used to put pressure on the Kremlin... if the truth is ever learnt, however, it will be only once the hoo-ha dies down.

Vladimir Voronin in NOVOYE VREMYA

For the authorities, the physical elimination of dissenters and troublemakers is becoming the main means by which to resolve their problems... It could be that it was because he [Litvinenko] gathered information about those who killed [journalist] Anna Politkovskaya or trod on someone else's toes. Or it was generally decided to make it clear to all our enemies and defectors, whether real or potential, that retribution is inescapable, that 'ours are long hands' that will reach you even in London.

Former economics minister Yevgeniy Yasin in KOMMERSANT

I do not see it as a plan of some sort to discredit Russia. Because we have gone back on democratic reform, our image is at an all-time low, so much so that there is no need to think up anything else.


As one of the theories, the elimination of a traitor by the Russian special services is, of course, a possibility. It is, however, greatly flawed and could prove altogether untrue... the theory that Litvinenko was poisoned by his former colleagues is logical and uncomplicated. It also looks good. But that is precisely where its vulnerability lies. What kind of secret operation by the special services is it, about which a journalist learns with such ease?

Yuliya Latynina on GRANI.RU website

It is a catastrophe. I think that it is one of those turning points as regards Russia's image in the world, which is plummeting as it is. It is very difficult to talk to a country which poisons political opponents with thallium or something else... Russia is becoming a different country. Whereas previously it was a quasi-democratic state, we are now quickly turning into [President] Lukashenko's Belarus, where people disappear.

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