Britain should rise above Russian money and power

Financial Times

By blocking a public inquiry into Litvinenko, the UK plays to the most cynical Putinesque instincts.

Edward Snowden seems like a bright chap. So he will probably have noticed the irony of voicing his complaints about persecution by the US legal system from the confines of Moscow airport. There are few governments in the world that abuse the law, for political purposes, with the ruthlessness and cynicism of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

The ironies do not stop there. Mr Snowden’s original motivation, as a whistleblower, was to expose over-mighty American spies. Yet Russia is a state that is effectively run by its intelligence services. Mr Putin is a former KGB operative. Spies and their cronies dominate his inner circle. Indeed Russia – which has become Mr Snowden’s temporary protector – is the perfect illustration of his argument that a state in thrall to its intelligence services would be a frightening place.

Over the past fortnight, three different cases have highlighted the country’s dangerous contempt for justice. In each insta

nce, the victims were Russians or former citizens – but the implications are global.

Last week, a Russian court found Sergei Magnitsky guilty of fraud in absentia. In fact, Magnitsky was not merely absent, he was dead – beaten to death in 2009, while in the custody of the Russian police. His real “crime” was to have pursued corruption with too much vigour and then, after his death, to have become an international cause célèbre. America’s “Magnitsky” law bans officials implicated in his killing, from travelling to the US. This act has so angered and alarmed the Russians that they felt it necessary to “prove” that Magnitsky was a criminal by staging a show trial of a dead man.

Alexei Navalny is likely to be the next victim of the Russian system of injustice. Since the Moscow protests of 2011 and 2012, he has emerged as the most charismatic leader of the opposition to Putinism. Witty, brave, internet-savvy, and with a populist and nationalistic streak, Mr Navalny presents a clear political danger to Putinism. The Russian authorities have openly acknowledged that there are political motives behind his trial on ludicrous-sounding charges of embezzlement. This Thursday, he is all-out certain to be convicted – and probably imprisoned, joining other prisoners whose political activities have displeased Mr Putin.

A third miscarriage of justice took place last week, when it was announced in London that the British government is refusing to hold a public inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned in London in 2006. The UK tried for many years to secure the extradition of Andrei Lugovoi, Litvinenko’s suspected killer, who is now a member of parliament in Moscow. There were tit-for-tat expulsions of Russian and British diplomats.

But Britain now seems to have tired of the whole Litvinenko case, and the chill that it placed over relations with Russia. Earlier this year, the UK coroner charged with holding an inquest into Litvinenko’s death announced that he would not be able to do a proper job because he is not allowed to hear sensitive evidence, damaging to national security, in public. The coroner suggested a public inquiry that could hear such evidence in private. But, apparently even that is too much for the UK government – which has chucked the ball back to the coroner’s court.

The reasons for blocking a proper investigation of the Litvinenko killing seem to be pure realpolitik. Russia is an important country. Britain needs its co-operation on a range of issues, from getting our troops out of Afghanistan in 2014 to the war in Syria, counter-terrorism and trade. British companies have big investments in Russia. There are also narrower reasons to do with the shadowy struggle between the Russian and British intelligence services. At the time of his death, Litvinenko was working for British intelligence. The UK government thinks that exposing its intelligence operations would be a bonanza for Russia.

These arguments have to be taken seriously. The British government’s first job is to protect the lives and interests of its citizens. Sometimes pragmatism can trump a quixotic pursuit of principle.
And yet, in squashing a proper Litvinenko inquiry, the British government is underestimating the cards it has to play. London is the second home for many members of the Russian elite. As their anguish over the Magnitsky law illustrates, they now assume that they can have unfettered access to all the advantages of life in the west – from good schools to independent courts. Britain has not passed a Magnitsky law, but it says it will not issue visas for the 60 officials on the Magnitsky list. Yet the Magnitsky case involved a killing that took place in Russia. Surely even tougher action could be justified following a murder that was carried out in London?

In shying away from a Litvinenko inquiry, the British are also taking too narrow a view of their national interests. One of Britain’s greatest assets is its reputation for the rule of law. Every time Russian oligarchs choose to sue each other in London courts, they are paying tribute to the UK’s reputation for straight dealing. By contrast, blocking a public inquiry into Litvinenko plays into all the most cynical Putinesque instincts – that there is no such thing as the rule of law, or the pursuit of truth for its own sake, and that the only things that ultimately matter are power, fear and money. Britain should be better than that. микрозайм онлайн hairy women https://zp-pdl.com/get-quick-online-payday-loan-now.php https://zp-pdl.com/online-payday-loans-in-america.php payday loan

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