Don't Be Mean To The Brutal Russian Dictator
A few days ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that "in 2015 a prominent Russian opposition activist named Vladimir Kara-Murza [who was also a long-time Journal writer] inexplicably suffered multiple organ failure and barely survived after falling into a coma for nearly a week. On Thursday it happened to him again, in much the same way. Since this happened in Moscow, we assume the explanation isn’t innocent." He was a former aide to opposition leader Boris Nemtsov who Putin had assassinated in 2015 on the eve of a demonstration in Red Square.
In 2012 Kara-Murza had testified before the U.S. Congress in favor of the Magnitsky Act, which placed financial sanctions and travel bans on corrupt Russian officials. He called that law, which Putin hates so much, a “pro-Russian bill which provides a much-needed measure of accountability for those who continue to violate the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens.”
Three months later Putin had Nemtsov killed-- something that could be watched from the window of the room I was staying in at Moscow's lovely Baltschug Hotel-- he ordered the poisoning of Kara-Murza.
Kara-Murza never tired of warning about Putin’s encroaching dictatorship. "Now," continued The Journal, he’s fighting for his life at a Moscow hospital. As his friend Garry Kasparov told us Friday, his plight is a reminder that 'Putin’s regime wants the worst for those who want the best for Russia, and that Putin has no fear of repercussions abroad for murdering even the most peaceful critics.' Now would be a good time for U.S. officials, including the White House, to demonstrate moral leadership by speaking up for Mr. Kara-Murza and other brave Russian dissenters." Oh sure; the Trump/Bannon White House is going to do just that!
On Wednesday, 3 Republicans-- John McCain (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC), Little Marco (FL)-- and 3 Democrats-- Sherrod Brown (OH), Ben Cardin (MD) and Claire McCaskill (MO)-- introduced a bill, the Russia Sanctions Review Act, setting up a period of congressional oversight before Trump could roll back sanctions against Putin's regime. The problem, of course, is that it would require the Trumpanzee signature to become law.
Moments after screeching in delight and doing a little victory jig at Miss McConnell's shutting down Elizabeth Warren on the Seante floor for reading a letter into the record by Coretta Scott King, ole Lindsey regained his composure and told the media that "To provide relief at this time would send the wrong signal to Russia and our allies who face Russian oppression. Sanctions relief must be earned, not given." You go, girl!
This morning, writing for Newsweek, Jeff Stein suggests that Putin has ordered the murder of at least 40 political opponents. [Trumpanzee caveat: "U.S. government murders people too," or something like that.] He explained that former assistant director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Peter Oleson "put together his list before longtime Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza fell deathly ill from poison last week in a Moscow hospital. And before a former KGB general, Oleg Erovinkin, was found dead in the back of his car in Moscow the day after Christmas. Erovinkin was suspected of being a source for Christopher Steele, the ex-British intelligence officer who assembled the notorious 'golden shower' memorandum on alleged connections between President Donald Trump’s camp and the Russian president. After Steele was unmasked as the author of the dossier, he went into hiding. He may well have had the fate of other Kremlin critics in mind."
Observers were quick to compare Kara-Murza’s misfortune to that of Alexander Litvinenko, a disenchanted former Russian security agent poisoned to death by radioactive polonium-210 in London in 2006. “You may succeed in silencing me, but that silence comes at a price,” Litvinenko said as he lay dying. “…The howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr. Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life.”
Indeed, Scotland Yard leveled a finger at the Kremlin for the murder of Litvinenko, saying “the evidence suggests that the only credible explanation is in one way or another the Russian state is involved in Litvinenko's murder.” Britain demanded Moscow extradite the alleged perpetrator, Andrey Lugovoy, to stand trial for the murder, but the Kremlin declined. Lugovoy, who called reports of his responsibility in Litvinenko’s death nothing but “invention, supposition, rumors,” now has a seat in the Duma, which provides him immunity from prosecution.
Litvinenko, who British intelligence was supporting while he did private work for a business risk-analysis firm, was said to be investigating Spanish links to the Russian mafia when Lugovoy, a former KGB bodyguard, allegedly slipped the polonium into his tea. The context of his murder is plumbed in a heart-pounding new book on the affair, A Very Expensive Poison: The Definitive Story of the Murder of Litvinenko and Russia's War with the West, by British journalist Luke Harding.
“Litvinenko wasn't exactly James Bond,” writes Harding, a veteran foreign correspondent for The Guardian newspaper. “But he was passing British intelligence sensitive information about the links between Russia mafia gangs active in Europe and powerful people at the very top of Russian power-- including Putin.” All together, Litvinenko would say, the Russian president, his ministers and their mobster pals composed what could only be called “a mafia state.” Or, as Fox News talk show host Bill O’Reilly put it to President Donald Trump the other day, “He’s a killer.”
“There are a lot of killers. We have a lot of killers,” Trump said in a remark that seemed to defend Putin and drew widespread rebukes. Then again, he may be talking from experience in his rough-edged New York real estate world, where he rubbed elbows with labor union mobsters, according to several published reports, and he's repeatedly expressed his deep loathing for reporters. "I hate some of these people. But I'd never kill them,” he said at a 2015 rally.
Even if he were tempted to give in to his loathing, he’d have a long way to go to catch up to what the Kremlin boss is suspected of.
Perhaps that's what really prompted this from the drug-addled Trumpanzee this morning:
Look at that expression on Trump's mug! You know he's thinking about David Corn. So is Putin
...Kara-Murza was still suffering from the effects of his 2015 poisoning—nerve damage on his left side that caused him to walk with a cane-- when he fell ill again last week. As with that earlier incident, his doctors say they can’t pin down exactly what put him in the hospital again. His wife said she has sent samples of her husband’s blood, hair and fingernails to a private laboratory in Israel for analysis.
In a 2015 interview, Kara-Murza said the likely culprit in his poisoning was a "very sophisticated" substance that typically only the Kremlin’s security services would have access to. Meanwhile, he has powerful American friends looking out for him. One of them is Senator John McCain of Arizona. On Tuesday, the Republican lawmaker took to the Senate floor to defend his Russian friend and denounce Trump for equating Putin’s murders with some unidentified killings that the president suggested the United States had carried out.
Kara-Murza "knew that there was no moral equivalence between the United States and Putin's Russia,” McCain fumed. “I repeat, there is no moral equivalence between that butcher and thug and KGB colonel and the United States of America.... To allege some kind of moral equivalence between the two is either terribly misinformed or incredibly biased.”