20 November 2006

Russians again...!

Dear readers,

Russia is in the news again today, and unfortunately again for the wrong reasons. According to the EU-Observer, a man nearly killed Alexander Litvinenko around the 1st November, by poisoning him with thallium. Litvinenko was an ex-FSB colonel defector, living in London, where he had political activities related to Russia. He had recently tried to investigate the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Aparently, after having met an Italian businessman, supposed to be KGB acquaintance Mario Scaramella, he fell ill and was admitted into intensive care. The same week-end, two other persons related to the Politkovskaya investigation enquiry were assassinated. Oleg Gordievsky, who knew Litvinenko pretty well, claimed the assassination attempt had all the marks of the ex-KGB agents. The fact is indeed that the use of thallium is pretty much a signature for the FSB. Both Gordievsky and Litvinenko were considered under death threats from their former colleagues, after their defection. And while both were living relatively public lives (both wrote books about their former agencies activities in the UK and Russia as well as abroad), they were taking some understandable precautions... Interestingly enough, according to Gordievsky, Scaramella is most probably not the killer, but another (unknown) businesman is believed to have taken a tea with Litvinenko that same day. A businessman related to ex-oligarch and another of Poutine's ennemies, Boris Berezovsky...

This gets murkier, but the cleaning up around the murder of Anna Politkovskaya is looking more and more political every day. And it is a double edged sword. It is probably very convenient for Vladimir Poutine to see his sworn ennemies falling like flies around him, but it is also making his whole work stink more and more at a time where he is attempting to do good business with the West. Especially the EU, but not only. According to Eastern European sources, the Russian Presidency and its allies (Gazprom people mainly) are trying to create a massive gas cartel around Europe, similar to the OPEC, to be able to impose semi-monopolistic prices. Algeria would be another member of the cartel, as both countries own most of the world reserves. Needless to say that some countries, depending on Russian gas, are not amused. Poland is leading the counter-attack by vetoing a planned EU-Russia agreement on energy. But other countries (more depending on Algerian gas, such as France) are closely following. This gets even more complicated, with "intermediary countries" crossed by gasoducs and trying to get the better of the situation. Moscow sees these countries (mainly Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia) as vassals who should be maintained in a salutary dependance... Ukraine and Georgia don't seem to appreciate this perceived involvement in their internal politics and are rearming as fast as possible.

Speak about a powder barrel...

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