Consecrating Russia to Exorcise the West: 1
"He" was Vladimir Putin. It was several months after his miraculous ascension to the Russian presidency in March 2000, and Berozovsky had just been summoned and told to hand over the shares in his Russian Public Television company (Channel One). According to the media magnate, it went down like this:
I said no, in the presence of [chief of staff Alexander] Volshin, So Putin changed his tone of voice then and said, "See you later, then, Boris Abramovich," and got up to leave. And I said, "Volodya, this is good-bye." We ended on this note, full of pathos. When he left the room, I turned to Voloshin and said, "So, Sasha, what have we done? Have we brought the black colonels to power?"
Convinced that he had "created" Putin out of nothing, popularising the erstwhile non-entity and smearing his opponents through Channel One's unfettered access to 98 percent of Russian households, Berozovsky immediately sat down and wrote to his protégé along the above lines. He never received a response to this letter. Within days he had left the country, ending up in Britain with fellow oligarch and former media rival, Vladimir Gusinsky, in political exile. Before long a warrant was issued for his arrest in Russia and he had surrendered his shares in Channel One.
"Three months after the [presidential] inauguration, two of the country's wealthiest men had been stripped of their influence and effectively kicked out of the country," writes Russian journalist Masha Gessen, summing up this rapid regression. "Less than a year after Putin came to power, all three federal television networks were controlled by the state."
In other words, after ten tumultuous years, during which a window of unprecedented social, political and press freedom opened and closed while the Russian state was bankrupted, it was back to totalitarian business as usual. During that same period, however, while "American carpetbaggers colluded with Muscovite Scalawags to loot the Russian nation," as Pat Buchanan put it, the West suddenly accelerated its own descent to institutionalised atheism at an exponential rate. By the time Putin replaced Yeltsin, the sort of manifold evils hitherto associated with Russia were increasingly visible on our own doorsteps.
This convergence, of formal (communistic) and informal (capitalistic) materialism, continues and worsens, notwithstanding many curious anomalies along the way. Like lesbian Masha Gessen's brave analysis of Putin's brutal dictatorship, even as she calls for the destruction of marriage, the Divine and natural bulwark against the totalising State she deplores. Or, more perverse still, the plaudits currently being heaped on the oppressive Mr Putin by oppressed Christians of the West.
"The KGB's flesh and blood," Putin is being hailed for various robust policies and attitudes, including his legislative stand against homosexual propaganda and behaviour, his professed Christian allegiance, his speaking up for our persecuted brethren in the Middle East, his hard line against Islamic terrorists, and his denunciation of catastrophic Western foreign policies (see his impressive rebuke of G8 leaders herein). Indeed, it is hard to resist cheering him on as he effortlessly shows up Messrs Cameron, Obama, Hollande, et. al. as unprincipled, cowed, emasculated and degenerate: political hirelings who tirelessly work against the expressed wishes, interests, and traditions of their own peoples.
In light of Russia's centrality to the Fatima message and Heaven's peace plan, this change in the international landscape since 1917, where the Israeli-U.S. alliance has assumed Russia's warmongering mantle, is both predictable and perplexing by contradictory turns. In fact, everywhere we look we are confronted by such unholy discord and chaos that the late Mr Berezovsky's assessment of "colossally complex" problems devoid of "one simple solution" seems irrefutable. And yet for Catholics this apparent insolubility of worldly woes only serves to underline the need for Russia's consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary; the "one simple solution" to the deadly quagmire of material self-interest, East and West. When carried out by the Holy Father as precisely as present hierarchical circumstances permit, it will not only resolve the near century-long Russian tragedy and contrived Middle Eastern powder kegs (decades in the making), but also dissolve the cultural Marxism legislating Christian faith and conscience out of the Western public square.
In this regard, we should pause to consider that Our Lord asked Sister Lucy to continue praying, both to Himself and His Mother, not just for the conversion of Russia but "Spain, Portugal, Europe and the whole world." A Divine command issued in 1931, several decades before sexual, scientific and technological revolutions gave rise to the practical atheism and self-obsession that now define the West. Recall, too, that Our Lord further informed Sr Lucy that the bloody Terror unleashed in 1789 was the direct consequence of failing to consecrate France to His Sacred Heart, as He had requested on 17 June 1689 (via St Margaret Mary). Given our heightened state of godlessness, this revelation suggests that a failure to undertake the consecration of Russia will provoke a far more terrifying chastisement than the French Revolution. Perhaps something akin to the terror described in the Third Secret as revealed by the late Fr Luigi Villa (see pp. 39-40)?
If we accept Fr Villa's credible testimony, then God obviously spared us the apparent apocalypse described by Our Lady; a scenario the world anticipated throughout the period in which she specified it would occur: "the second half of the Twentieth Century." One might reasonably surmise from this close call that John Paul II's 1984 consecrationof the world to the Immaculate Heart was at least enough to save us from Cold War Armageddon. Maybe even sufficient for the Wall to fall and some fleeting freedoms to be gifted the long-suffering peoples of Eastern Europe (i.e. beyond the limited intentions of the Communist architects of the perestroika project)?
However, being fundamentally flawed and incomplete (by virtue of the few bishops who participated and the specific failure to consecrate "Russia"), has the 1984 consecration merely put God's wrath on hold, as it were? After all, the post-89 global scene hardly constitutes that promised period of world peace contingent upon Russia's conversion. On the contrary, our Godless, dissolute planet drowning in the blood of its unborn is perilously close to Our Lady's picture of a world in which "Death will reign everywhere for the errors committed by the foolish and by the partisans of Satan, who, then and only then, will reign over the world" (p. 40).
Familiar and portentous, this description gives us every reason to believe that we stand on the brink of universal catastrophe. A precarious ledge from which we will surely plummet if the consecration of Russia is not undertaken. Meantime, the propagators of the atheistic "errors" identified by Our Lady of Fatima will maintain both their criminal hold on Russia and their Gramscian grip on the West, as sin continues to accumulate and test God to breaking point.
Will it all end in death by a thousand legal anti-Christian cuts? Or nuclear war? Or in nuclear-generated electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks unleashing hell on earth by destroying Western infrastructures? Or a combination of all these? There is endless speculation. But what we do know is that our Christian escape from the autocratic "errors" that bedevil both East and West is inextricably linked to the fate of the nation that spawned Marxism in its myriad forms. In which case it is self-defeating to view post-Soviet Russia and its leadership through a rose-coloured lens, as if the Fatima-Russia nexus is history; an irrelevance overtaken by time and events (like the rise of China, or the omnipotent financial elite orchestrating global chaos to their own advantage). Yet that mistaken view is currently promoted by flattering depictions of Russia's all-powerful leader being put about by those unaware of his background, mentality and modus operandi. So let us consider the frightening face behind the airbrushed portraits. For to do so is to comprehend the ongoing urgency of the precise Consecration requested by Heaven; especially in light of the escalating Syrian conflict that pits Russia (and its proxies) against Western interests vested in oil, energy and the global economic system.
I. VLADIMIR AND THE "BLACK COLONELS"
~ Old Russia Dressed Up ~
As Boris Berozovsky quickly learnt, the 2000 election result signalled not so much business as usual in Russia, as back to the usual business by other means. For the "black colonels" in the ascendancy were a new generation: typified by their commander-in-chief, former head of the FSB (successor agency to the KGB), Colonel Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.
Faced with political and economic chaos, a hostile populace, and an urgent need to find someone to succeed (and then protect) the besieged Boris Yeltsin and his clan, everyone misread this ostensibly "new" post-Soviet man who had not risen through the ranks of the Communist Party. The garrulous, self-serving Berozovsky for one.
He first met the future president in Leningrad (a KGB stronghold), in 1990. Putin, still a KGB officer and probably a plant, was deputy chairman of the city council and the right-hand man of its supposedly pro-democracy chairman, Anatoly Sobchak. A law professor affiliated with the Communist Party who always hedged his political bets, the duplicitous Sobchak preferred to run the first elected city council in Leningrad history like a despot.
It speaks not only to the upheaval and confusion of those early "post-Soviet" years but to the ordinariness of Putin — a bland functionary devoid of interest or curiosity who knew his place in the chain of command — that Berezovsky overlooked so many red flags (pun intended) and assessed him as honest, unassuming, loyal, disciplined, and malleable. In fact, like Yeltsin, he knew next to nothing about the persona revealed by Masha Gessen in The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin [Granta, 2012/13]. As events quickly confirmed, they had simply opted for the same old Russia dressed up.
For starters, Putin always yearned to be a spy. The spoiled and selfish only child of older parents who had survived the hellish Nazi siege of Leningrad (1941-43), the schoolboy Putin was a KGB geek. While most boys aspired to be cosmonauts, he had a photo of the founding father of Soviet espionage, Bolshevik Yan Berzin, propped up on his desk at the family dacha. The possession of this holiday "cabin outside the city," a television set, a telephone, and the twelve by fifteen foot room that served as their home in a crumbling apartment block ("an almost palatial abode for a family of three"), indicates the relative affluence of the Putins in comparison to their wholly impoverished neighbours.
Renowned as an angry delinquent, Putin was punished at school and even excluded for several years from the Communist organisation for ten-to-fourteen-year-olds. A small, slight boy, he would not hesitate to take on ferocious older thugs hanging around the filthy courtyard at the centre of his apartment block if they sleighted him. His vicious temper flared instantly and died down with difficulty. He cultivated this image through this carefully crafted official biography, wherein he freely boasted: "I was a hooligan... a real thug." His friends repeatedly recall his fistfights and "all but scratching out his opponents eyes when he was angered." A former schoolmate gave a telling snapshot of the future president's temperament:
The labour [shop] teacher dragged Putin by the collar, from his classroom to ours. We had been making dustpans in his class and Vladimir had done something wrong. ... It took him a long time to calm down. The process itself was interesting. It would start to look like he was feeling better, like it was all over. And then he would flare up again and start expressing his outrage. He did this several times over.
It was not until sixth-grade that he began to apply himself to his studies and turn his life around. Eventually, despite his academic mediocrity and apparent lack of connections, sheer determination realised his cherished dream of entering the intelligence service. All the while, right up to his appointment as head of that service decades later, he remained faceless: the quintessential grey man.
This invisibility was problematic for Putin's presidential backers. So, two months before the 2000 elections, shortly after Russian leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, had looked non-plussed when asked "Who is Mr Putin?", Berezovsky hastily commissioned three journalists to write Putin's life story. The leader of the team, a veteran political reporter, quickly recognised Berozovsky's absurdly inflated view of Putin as "amazing" and the way forward. "I have spent five years writing about the KGB," she told Gessen. "He was no better or worse than the rest of them; he was smarter than some and more cunning than some." This mediocrity was a defining trait. But also a great camouflage for the motivation and ambition he revealed, in passing, to his biographers:
I was most amazed by how a small force, a single person, really, can accomplish something an entire army cannot. A single intelligence officer could rule the fates of thousands of people. At least, that's how I saw it.
Not unreasonably, Gessen concludes that "Putin wanted to rule the world, or a part of it, from the shadows."
He began his despotic quest by entering, along with thousands of others, the bloated KGB of the mid-to-late 70s; a rare and brief period of peace in Soviet history, after Vietnam and before Afghanistan. "The only active enemies were the dissidents... who dared to think differently," writes Gessen. These were "the objects of constant surveillance and harassment." Despite his mendacious claim to know nothing about anti-dissident operations, Putin, according to a former colleague who defected to the West, worked for the Fifth Directorate, created precisely to fight the dissidents.
After four-and-a-half years of pushing mountains of paper, attending various courses and performing other mundane duties, he spent 1984-5 in Moscow at spy school, after which he was overlooked for a plum West German posting and assigned, instead, to tedious data-collecting duties in boring Dresden.
His communication coach assessed him as a good and devoted student but a closed, unsociable person. Unsurprisingly, Vladimir did not see himself that way. A close childhood friend told his biographers: "I said to him... 'What's your job? I mean, I know you are an intelligence officer. But what does that mean? Who are you? What can you do?' And he said, 'I am an expert in human relations.' That was the end of the conversation. He really thought he knew something about people." His future wife, for one, knew better.
Putin went out with Ludmila for three years (an extraordinarily long time by Russian standards, says Gessen) and was married very late by Russian standards (nearly 31 — less than 10% of Russians remain unmarried after 30). He never professed his love for his wife and his wife's description of the day he proposed reveals someone lacking all communication skills, despite his boast to the contrary:
One evening we were sitting in his apartment, and he says, "Little friend, by now you know what I'm like. I am basically not a very convenient person." And then he went on to describe himself: not a talker, can be pretty harsh, can hurt your feelings, and so on. Not a good person to spend your life with. And he goes on. "Over the course of three and a half years you've probably made up your mind." I realized we were probably breaking up. So I said, "Well, yes, I've made up my mind." And he said, with doubt in his voice, "Really?" That's when I knew we were definitely breaking up. "In that case," he said, "I love you and I propose that we get married on such and such a day." And that was completely unexpected. [They married three months later.]
This was the cold-blooded creature who later, having pushed a pen for several soul-destroying years in East Germany, returned to become Sobchak's deputy chairman in Leningrad. As his beloved KGB ostensibly fought for its existence under perestroika and Leningrad reverted to St Petersburg, he morphed into Sobchak's deputy mayor and point man for the city's foreign relations and trade. The vacuous core related by Ludmila was now manifest in a cultivated "impervious, emotionless exterior"; a man with an empty office save for a desk with a lone glass ashtray sitting atop it, recalled a woman who worked in the mayor's office at the same time, and with similarly colourless glassy eyes looking out from behind the desk. Gessen recounts a telling workaday episode:
The woman who worked as his secretary later recalled having to deliver a piece of upsetting personal news to her boss: "The Putins had a dog, a Caucasian shepherd named Malysh [Baby]. He lived at their dacha and was always digging holes under the fence, trying to get out. One time he did get out, and got run over by a car. Ludmila Alexandrovna grabbed the dog and drove him to the veterinary clinic. She called his office from there and asked me to tell her husband that the veterinarian had been unable to save the dog. I went into Vladimir Vladimirovich's office and said, 'You know, there is a situation. Malysh is dead.' I looked — and there was no emotion in his face, none. I was so suprised at his lack of reaction that I could not keep from asking, 'Did someone already tell you?' And he said calmly, 'No, you are the first person to tell me.' That's when I knew I had said the wrong thing."
The "wrong thing" in the story presumably refers to the question about whether Putin had already been informed of his dog's death. But the scene as a whole is remarkable for the palplabe sense of uncertainty and even fear that it conveys.
In retrospect, the unnerving facade betrayed the ruthless kleptocracy he was directing. A comprehensive 1992 investigation by Marina Salye, an incorruptible Leningrad politician who became chair of the city council's committee on food supplies, revealed that Putin was stealing from the people of St Petersburg with impunity. He and his department, called the Committee for Foreign Relations, "had entered into dozens of [export] contracts on behalf of the city [involving provision of natural resources in return for foodstuffs and together worth $92 million], many if not all of them of questionable legality." A kickback scheme involving between 25 and 50 percent of the sum of each contract totalled $34 million in commissions.
Salye's report was reviewed by the city council and Mayor Sobchak. She also asked Yeltsin to investigate the major violations. The chief comptroller of the Yeltsin administration even requested the foreign trade minister to curtail Putin's powers. It all came to nothing. There was no reaction from any quarter. Putin denied wrongdoing and the scandal was buried; rationalised as one typical violation among countless others as Russian's new elite set about "redistributing" the nation's wealth among themselves in classic Soviet fashion. To a point, in the context of the times, this reluctance to investigate was understandable. However, "the scale and brazen nature of the embezzlement uncovered by Salye is shocking even by early-1990s Russia standards," Gessen insists, "especially if we take into account how fast he [Putin] acted."
It is noteworthy that rather than take a 'reasonable' share of the spoils, and reinvest within Russia like other white-collar crooks, Putin would take over 90% and line his own pockets. This insatiable greed was and remains the deeper truth behind his deluded self-image as an incorruptible servant of the State; a false image he sold to those like Berezovsky who gave him a leg up the greasy pole. These, in turn, sold it to the clueless public.
The purloining of public and private assets that commenced straight after his 2000 election was not, therefore, entirely about power and control. Putin just can't help himself! By 2007, Russian political experts already estimated his personal net worth at $40 billion. While the total amount is arguable, the construction of his private "palace" on the Black Sea alone, originally budgeted at a 'mere' $16 million, has long passed the billion-dollar mark.
In the end, Sobchak, who according to Salye also "played the democrat when he was really a demagogue," did not get rid of Putin. He was too busy "handing out apartments in the middle of St Petersburg... to friends, relatives, and valued colleagues." Instead, he got rid of the city council.
It would seem, therefore, that Putin very quickly established the base of wealth, influence and fear that sustains him to this day via the siloviki — "strongmen" with roots in the KGB and military.
Appointed head of Russia's secret police in August 1998 ("quickly appointing people he knew from the Leningrad KGB to top positions in the federal structure"), the embattled Boris Yeltsin finally named him Prime Minister in August 1999, with a view to presidential succession. By this time Putin had developed a taste for well-cut European suits and appeared to embody the New Russia that Yeltsin, the only freely elected leader in Russian history, had promised but not delivered to the people; an electorate "battered, traumatized and disappointed" after a decade of hyperinflation and the pillaging of State assets by a mix of government leaders and functionaries, entrepreneurs, mafia, and foreign 'interests.' That a vote for Putin was a vote for one of these very criminals was clearly lost on the majority of aggravated Russians, as on the uncurious international community.
The lone critical voice was that of the intrepid Marina Salye. In the period leading up to Putin's election, she published an article, "Putin Is the President of a Corrupt Oligarchy," in which she detailed the findings of her St Petersburg investigation. Yet even that clarion call did not stop her liberal colleagues voting overwhelmingly for Putin. Just as readily bewitched, Western politicians and media also ignored Salye. The plain truth, as ever, was covered over.
Not until the bodies of critical journalists and independent-minded businessmen and politicians began piling up did wishful-thinkers and self-servers, left and right, start facing up to the awful truth long trumpeted by traditional Catholics. Ever conscious of the Fatima message that placed the bogus, unconsecrated, post-89 New Russia in supernatural perspective, they sensed a malign spirit in Putin from the outset. Unlike, say, President Bush, who in June 2001 felt only fluffy vibes as he "looked the man in the eye" and "was able to get a sense of his soul." Apparently not.
It took six years before our worst Catholic fears about Putin, as far more sinister than a mere KGB front man, were publicly vindicated by the murder of a former FSB officer. We related his case in our May 2007 number but it is worth revisiting because the particular cruelty involved speaks volumes. If it were the only assassination that could be directly attributed to Putin, it would still be enough, in terms of satanic quality and intent, to label him "Stalinesque" in the fiendish sense of that term.
After revealing massive corruption within the FSB and the Moscow City Police Organised Crime Unit to Vladimir Putin, then newly appointed as head of the FSB, Alexander Litvinenko found himself defamed, arrested and dragged through kangaroo courts on trumped up charges. He bravely hit back, calling a press conference with four of his secret police colleagues to declare that they had received illegal assignments from the FSB, including orders to assassinate Boris Berozovsky and kidnap and beat up prominent businessmen. Putin responded with a televised statement impugning Litvinenko's character, falsely claiming he was delinquent on alimony payments to his first wife.
Having already spent a year in jail, his FSB career ruined, he finally fled Russia in September 2000, followed by his wife and six-year-old son. After the US embassy in Ankara turned down his request for asylum, a terrifying period in limbo ended when Berezovsky organised a friend, New Yorker Alex Goldfarb, to get them to London (for which charitable act Goldfarb lost his job with George Soros). There, Litvinenko's rent, his son's tuition and his ongoing anti-Putin agitation were paid for by Berozovsky.
Litvinenko later learned from reading his own FSB case file that Putin had ordered Internal Affairs to start a case against him straight after his original request for Putin to root out corruption. He also discovered that Putin's criminal dealings in St Petersburg had involved working hand-in-glove with mafia drug barons. Since he was exposing these things about a man who never forgets or forgives, the inevitable came to pass. In late 2006, Litvinenko was famously poisoned with polonium. Over several agonising weeks, the radioactive isotope destroyed his internal organs. A few days before he died on 23 November, aged 44, he dictated a statement to Goldfarb, to be released in the event of his death. He began by thanking Britain, the doctors and his wife Marina, then continued:
... I think the time has come to say a few words to the man responsible for my current condition.
You may be able to force me to stay quiet, but this silence will come at a price to you. You have now proved that you are exactly the ruthless barbarian your harshest critics made you out to be.
You have demonstrated that you have no respect for human life, liberty, or other values of civilization.
You have shown that you do not deserve to hold your post, and you do not deserve the trust of civilized people.
You may be able to shut one man up, but the noise of protest all over the world will reverberate in your ears, Mr Putin, to the end of your life. May God forgive you for what you have done, not only to me but to my beloved Russia and her people.
MI6 identified the murder suspect as Andrei Lugovoi, a former FSB colleague of Litvinenko, but he was promptly made a member of the Russian parliament, giving him immunity from prosecution, including extradition requests. Britain expelled four Russian diplomats from London in reprisal. Lugovoi continues to protest his innocence. He is supported by one investigative writer who has recently questioned many aspects of the case, concluding that Litvinenko, who worked for a number of intelligence services including the British, was simply contaminated by an accidental leakage of polonium, either from a tracking device or during a sting operation to entrap traffickers in nuclear material (Daily Mail, 9/8/13). Mafia involvement, too, cannot be discounted.
Meanwhile, Litvinenko's family continues to blame Putin and is seeking judicial review. They believe that the British government, having locked away the autopsy report and refused a request from coroner Sir Robert Owen for a full public inquiry with a broad investigative remit, has "colluded" with the Kremlin "to obstruct justice." A perfectly reasonable surmise given the suspected injustice suffered by so many at the hands of the British security services and an increasingly corrupt and politicised British justice system. One need only recall the ongoing cover-up of the apparent 2003 assassination of weapons' expert Dr David Kelly, likely to save the hides of those who fomented Blair's unjust and illegal war on Iraq; or the relatives of murdered British spies accusing British intelligence of rubbing out their own agents with alarming frequency [cf. Daily Mail, 5/7/12].
As with all such matters at this rarefied political level, the lords of disinformation will ensure we never know the full and unadulterated truth about Litvinenko. Gessen, however, has no doubts. Polonium-210 is very rare. According to Wikipedia, barely 100 grams are produced each year, "practically all of it in Russia." Moreover, Gessen explains that every stage of its production is tightly controlled. "The extraction of the needed dose from the manufacturing chain required top-level intervention in an early stage of the manufacturing process. The authorisation... had to have come from the president's office. In other words, Vladimir Putin ordered Alexander Litvinenko dead."
It certainly looks and sounds that way. When Litvinenko finally succumbed to multiple organ failure Putin's invertebrate response mirrored his bloodless reaction to news that his dog had died. "This was not a violent death," he said. Truly inhuman, his assessment would not have surprised Maria Salye. She once told British journalist Ann Leslie, "Of course, ‘they’ could kill me! I have too much evidence of Putin’s corruption and abuse of power" [Daily Mail, 25/11/06]. In fact, she is only alive today because she took protective action.
Just a few months after Putin's 2000 election, Salye had visited a politician, Sergei Yushenkov, a career military man who had steadfastly held to his liberal reformist views throughout the 90s, hoping to form a new organisation. "The visit to Yushenkov scared Salye so much," writes Gessen, who tracked her down, "that even ten years later she refused to divulge details."
"I got there, and there was a certain person in his office," she told me.
"What kind of person?"
"A certain person. We had a conversation that I wouldn't call constructive. I went home and told Natasha that I'm going to the country."
"Did he threaten you?"
"No one threatened me directly."
"So, why did you decide to leave?"
"Because I knew this person."
"And what did seeing him mean?"
"It meant that I should get as far away as possible."
"I'm sorry, I don't understand," I persisted, feeling I was on the verge of being thrown out of Salye's hideout.
"I knew what this person was capable of. Is that clearer."
"Yes, thank you. But what was he doing in Yushenkov's office? Did they have something in common."
"No, I did not know what he was doing there, and most of all I did not know why Yushenkov did not get him out of there when I came. It means he was unable to get rid of him, even though the conversation Yushenkov and I were about to have was not meant for anyone else's ears."
"That is all I am going to say."
Salye gathered her things and moved to that house, a twelve hour impossible drive from Moscow, where I found her ten years later.
It was a portent of Litvinenko and other Putin "liquidations." Tragically, the plain-speaking Yushenkov did not follow Salye's lead and skip town. Having protested against what he called Putin's "bureaucratic police regime," on the afternoon of 17 April 2003, while walking from his car to his apartment building in north Moscow, he was shot in the chest four times.
All this extreme fear and violence instilled and directed by Russia's spook-in-chief is the manifestation of another primal instinct as insatiable as his greed. Natalia Gevorkyan, the veteran reporter who led the Berezovksy team that hastily compiled Putin's propagandistic biography, nailed it. "He is a small, vengeful man," she told Gessen.
Indeed, revenge is the leitmotif of Gessen's work. Effectively, she documents how one petty vendetta after another is triggered by the most trifling of perceived sleights and pursued to the bitter, often lethal end. It need not be a direct challenge that threatens the institutionalised corruption he embodies, as with Litvinenko. A case prosecuted against someone for whatever obscure reason may be deemed a "very important case" (an actual legal category) if it is very important to one very important person. In other words, if you fall out with Putin, as defined by Putin, you are finished.
While untold murders are linked to him, many are open to speculation. The recent demise of his old nemesis Berozovsky, found hanged in his British bathroom last March, for instance. Or the death of his former St Petersburg boss Sobchak, in Kalingrad in 1999. According to the autopsy carried out by one of Putin's cronies, Sobchak suffered a massive natural heart attack. Eight years later, however, Arkady Vaksberg, a forensics specialist turned investigative reporter, published a book on the history of political poisonings in the USSR and Russia in which he advanced a theory of precisely how Sobchak was poisoned. "A few months after the book was published, Vaksberg's car was blown up in his Moscow garage." Fortunately, Vaksberg was not in it.
Very clearly, life is exceedingly cheap in the estimation of Vladimir Putin. Yet do the individual assassinations disguise a darker reality still? Do they distract attention from a deeper psychosis and closer approximation to Stalin's regime than even critical Western observers care to imagine? It seems so. Gessen presents evidence pointing to Putin's complicity in the mass murder of his compatriots by the secret services, "intended to unite Russians in fear and in a desperate desire for a new, decisive, even aggressive leader who would spare no enemy."
Between 31 August and 16 September 1999, just after Putin left the FSB to take up his appointment as prime minister, there was a series of five explosions in Moscow and two southern cities. Three apartment blocks, a crowded shopping mall and a street were torn apart. Several hundred died and many more were injured. Panic set in all over the country as Putin pointed his accusing finger at the all too obvious culprits: the Chechens. Gessen, who had covered the 1994-96 war in Chechnya "from beginning to end" and observed the bombing, rape, torture and murder of innocent Chechens by Russian soldiers first hand, had "no trouble believing that some of them [who had witnessed their sisters, brothers, and friends suffer these attrocities] would be capable of horrific revenge."
On cue, a week after the final blast more than a quarter of all governors in the federation "wrote a letter to President Yeltsin asking him to yield power to Putin, who had been in office as prime minister for just over a month." The same day, despite having no authority over the military, "Putin issued his own order authorizing Russian troops to engage in combat in Chechnya." Furthermore, he made his first statement of lawless intent on television, boasting with typical vulgarity: "We will hunt them down. Wherever we find them, we will destroy them. Even if we find them in the toilet. We will rub them out in the outhouse."
This B Grade movie dialogue was a sea change from Yeltsin's rhetoric. "He was not promising to bring the terrorists to justice. Nor was he expressing compassion for the hundreds of victims of the explosions," says Gessen. "This was the language of a leader who was planning to rule with his fists." Indeed. With help from his FSB buddies.
The day before his grandstanding, on 22 September, a man and woman had been seen planting three heavy sacks under the stairway of an apartment block in the city of Ryazan, about a hundred miles from Moscow. Six months later, on 24 March 2000, two days before the presidential election, television station NTV (one of those later seized by Putin), aired an investigation of this incident before a live audience. It was revealed that police had discovered the fifty-kilogram sacks, marked "Sugar," stacked on top of each other. The bomb squad was called when the top sack was found to contain wires and a clock (set for 5.30 am to maximise casualties). As residents were evacuated, the squad disabled the timer and analysed the contents of the sack, concluding that it was hexogen, a powerful explosive. More commonly known as RDX in English-speaking countries, it was the substance used in at least one of the Moscow explosions.
The turn of events thereafter involved a cover-up that quickly descended into farce. The Leningrad officer Putin had duly appointed to succeed him as FSB head soon contradicted local officials. He explained to the media that the man and woman seen planting the bombs, identified as FSB officers, were part of "a training exercise, and the bags contained sugar. There were no explosives." It was all intended to test the alertness of the people of Ryazan and the preparedness of local law enforcement. Reluctantly, Ryazan officials fell into line, stating that the bomb squad had misidentified the sugar as explosives because its equipment was contaminated and unreliable. No explanation was offered as to why the local FSB and interior minister had not been apprised of the exercise, or why over a thousand Ryazan troops had been mobilised to catch the suspects as they fled Ryazan. (D'oh!)
These and many other inconsistencies, pieced together by NTV journalists, were presented to the viewers. Yet even while presenting this incriminating evidence, the moderator tried to suggest that Ryazan really was a training exercise and that he was not accusing the FSB of setting off the explosions. The studio audience did not accept this take. The official line was backed by only one man (an FSB plant who posed as a resident of the evacuated Ryazan building but was shouted down by other residents, who said he certainly did not live in their block). Gessen concludes:
Watching the program, I thought back to the conversation I had had with my editor half a year earlier [in which he had mused that some people thought the FSB were behind the bombings]. In just six months, the limits of the possible had shifted in my mind. I could now believe the FSB had most likely been behind the deadly bombings that shook Russia and helped make Putin its leader. When the agency found itself on the verge of being exposed ... the FSB quickly came up with the training exercise story: unconvincing, but sufficient to prevent the arrest of secret police agents by regular police. The deadly chain of explosions halted at the same time.
Ten years later, Gessen raised this matter with Berezovsky, who by then had funded investigations, books, and a film that built on Nikolayev's investigation. "I can tell you with absolute sincerity that at the time I was sure it was the Chechens," he told her. "It was when I came here [to London] and started looking back that I eventually came to the conclusion that the explosions were organized by the FSB. And this conclusion was based not only on logic — not even so much on logic as on facts."
Incredibly, despite the fact that Putin was succeeded at the FSB by his right-hand man Patrushev, and that the explosions began just three weeks after he was appointed prime minister, Berezovsky still held that Putin was not involved in the terrorising of Russia in September 1999. Gessen responded that it was absurd to imagine that Patrushev would have hidden the plan from Putin. In any event, she knew from personal experience (recorded in her book) that Putin had firsthand knowledge of even minor operations. "Berezovsky agreed," she writes, "although... he had come to believe that the idea had originated in Putin's inner circle ... [but] was designed to boost any successor of Yeltsin's choosing."
While Berezovsky might have been rationalising away his part in "creating" Putin, Gessen had to admit that the bombings could have been used to elect anyone: "if enough blood was shed, any previously unknown, faceless, and unqualified candidate could become president." Fair enough. But Putin's cold-blooded handling and subsequent exploitation of ensuing horrors should put to rest any doubts about his complicity in the 1999 bombings.
The Moscow siege
A few years into his reign, on 23 October 2002, around 800 people were taken hostage in a Moscow theatre by masked men with machine guns. Held for fifty-eight exhausting and terrifying hours, it transpired that the hostages were pawns in an operation facilitated by the government and secret service.
Much like perestroika, the siege was a giant lie that did not evolve precisely as planned. It was shored up by many supporting lies, such as the several cabinet officials who triumphantly declared to relatives of the hostages on the morning of the third day that "The operation went off without a hitch"; that all the terrorists had been killed and there were no casualties among the hostages. In fact, the gas poured into the theatre by special forces, allegedly to make everyone fall asleep and prevent the terrorists from detonating the explosives supposedly planted around the theatre, was a deadly disaster that soon laid bare the scam.
That the sleep-deprived "terrorists" took several minutes to fall asleep yet did not set off the explosives was the first disturbing hint. The second was the inhumane treatment of the severely dehydrated hostages who fell asleep quickly and required medical help to wake up. Many choked to death on their own vomit after being carried from the building and placed either on their backs or sitting up, instead of on their sides. Then, instead of being taken to the hospital next door, the merely unconscious were transported to hospitals in central Moscow, "where the doctors were helpless to aid them because the military and police authorities refused to tell them what kind of chemical had been used in the theater. Several of the hostages fell into a coma and died in the hospital, some as late as a week after the siege was over. In all, 129 people died." And yet the government claimed a glorious victory. Gessen:
Pictures of the terrorists, all of whom were summarily executed in their sleep by Russian troops, were repeatedly shown on television: men and women slumped in their theater chairs or over tables, with visible gunshot wounds to their heads. When I wrote a piece on the disregard for human life the government exhibited by declaring victory in the face of 129 unnecessary deaths, I received a series of death threats myself: the triumph over terrorism was not to be questioned.
Furthermore, few Russians ever learned that the terrorists had advanced very simple demands that would have been easily met, such as merely wanting President Putin to declare that he wanted to end the war in Chechnya. But of course this ran counter to his nature. "The boy who could never end a fight — the one who would seem to calm down only to flare up and attack again — now the president who had promised to 'rub them out in the outhouse,' would certainly rather sacrifice 129 of his own citizens than publicly say that he wanted peace. He did not."
With a view to his autocratic goal, Putin milked this black operation for all it was worth, as the post-9/11 West looked on in admiration at his tough and effective leadership. Ruinous American foreign policy notwithstanding, Putin's alliance with Syria and Iran makes the shocking truth revealed by Gessen essential reading.
Anatomy of a mass murder
Following events from his North London residence was Alexander Litvinenko, who had spent the second half of the 90s in Chechnya on the side of the Russian troops. He and his Chechen neighbour Ahmed Zakaev (also supported by Berozovsky and considered the prime minister of Chechnya in exile), discovered that one of the theatre-siege terrorists seemed to have left the building shortly before it was stormed. They identified him as Khanpash Terkibaev, a former journalist who, they believed, "had long been working for Russian secret police." In April 2003, Litvinenko passed all the information he had on Terkibaev to Sergei Yushenkov, the liberal colonel Marina Salye had been co-organising before she fled Moscow, who was now engaged in a parliamentary investigation of the theatre siege. It was just two weeks later that Yushenkov was shot dead in Moscow in broad daylight. "Litvinenko was certain this was a direct result of his theater siege investigation," says Gessen.
But Yushenkov had already passed the Litvinenko information on Terkibaev to crusading journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Trusted by Chechens for truthful reporting on Russian atrocities, Politkovskaya had been allowed into the Moscow theatre to negotiate with the terrorists. She now tracked down Terkibaev, "whom she said she recognised from her time inside the theatre," and interviewed him. A vain creature, he freely boasted of having led the terrorists to Moscow in several vans loaded with arms that sailed through checkpoints. He said he was working for Moscow; that is, for one of the secret services. His boast fitted the facts, particularly since he was still alive and moved freely, including as a member of foreign delegations abroad. He also told Politkovskaya that there were no explosives. The women hostage-takers were wearing dummy dynamite vests. "If this was true," says Gessen, "and there was every reason to think it was — then everyone who died in the siege died in vain. And, with Khanpash Terkibaev leaving the building before special forces stormed it, the Kremlin probably knew it too."
Shortly afterwards, on 3 July 2003, Politkovskaya's boss, Yuri Shchekochikhin, the deputy editor of her paper Novaya Gazeta who was working on many investigative committees with the likes of Yushenkov, was poisoned. He died painfully of multiple organ failure due to an unknown toxin. "Zakaev was certain Shchekochikhin was murdered to prevent him from publishing information he had gathered on the theatre siege: namely, evidence that some of the women terrorists were convicted felons who, on paper, were still serving sentences in Russian prisons at the time of the siege. In other words," explains Gessen, "their release had probably been secured by someone who had extra-legal powers — and this, again, pointed to possible secret-police involvement in the organization of this act of terror."
In 2004, Politkovskaya herself barely survived a poisoning attempt "that did severe damage to her kidneys, liver, and endocrine system," before finally being shot dead in the lift of her central Moscow apartment building on 7 October 2006 [see CO, May 2007]. Gessen is inclined to believe that Putin was not behind this particular murder that reverberated around the world, since it did more damage to him and his government than Politkovskaya had in life; her views, reports and investigative pieces on Chechnya having been variously blacklisted and neutered within Russia.
Litvinenko begged to differ. "Anna Politkovskaya Was Killed by Putin" was the title of his obituary on the day of her murder. "We disagreed occasionally, and we would argue," he wrote of his relationship with Politkovskaya. "But we had complete understanding on one point: we both believed that Putin is a war criminal, that he is guilty of the genocide of the Chechen people, and that he should be tried by an open and independent court. Anya realised that Putin might kill her for her beliefs, and for this she despised him."
It was just three weeks later that Litvinenko himself felt the first pangs of the polonium coursing through his body.
Putin did not have long to wait for another opportunity to consolidate his rule. On 3 September 2004, a three-day standoff in the North Ossetia town of Beslan, where armed men held children and their parents hostage, ended with federal troops storming the school building; more than three hundred people died.
Having immediately urged Zakaev in London to have Chechnyan leaders attempt to talk to the terrorists and negotiate the release of the children, Politkovskaya was en route to cover and investigate Beslan when she suffered the near fatal poisoning. It struck her down for two months. A very convenient turn of events for the Kremlin considering all the lies that needed covering up.
Officials had hugely underestimated the number of hostages, for instance, claiming 354 when there were more than a thousand. Former hostages testified that when their captors, who were watching TV, saw the figure 354, they concluded that the government was laying the groundwork for a storming of the building by underestimating the number of potential casualties. It was then that they stopped giving hostages water. Officials also claimed the hostage-takers made no demands. Not so. "Witnesses claimed there was at least one videotape and one letter containing demands that could have led to negotiations," says Gessen.
Putin, of course, prefers to "rub them out," even if the lives of hundreds of children are at stake. So he attacked. Despite every indication that the terrorists were willing to negotiate. They had already released a couple of dozen women and children with a list of demands. Moreover, Aslan Maskhadov, president of the self-proclaimed Chechen republic, had agreed to negotiate with the terrorists after being contacted by Zakaev. But as during the theatre siege, Moscow was not interested in negotiating to save hostages. "In fact," writes Gessen, "the beginning of military action seems to have been timed specifically to prevent a meeting between the terrorists and Maskhadov, who stood a good chance of brokering a peaceful resolution."
That "military action" exploded at 1 pm on 3 September, when Russian troops fired rocket launchers directly at the overcrowded gymnasium, fully cognisant of the explosives which the terrorists had mounted in plain sight.
"When I came to, there were bodies on top of me," one of the former hostages testified. "Everything was burning," said another. "I was lying on top of dead bodies. There were also dead bodies sitting on the benches." A third testified, "I looked over and saw that my girl was missing her head and arms and her foot had been crushed completely."
The terrorists now were trying to save the hostages, moving those still mobile into the cafeteria away from immediate fire.
They urged those who remained in the gymnasium to stand in the windows and show Russian troops that the room was filled with hostages, that they were firing at women and children. The Russian troops continued to use tanks, grenade launchers, and fire launchers, aiming first at the gymnasium and then also at the cafeteria at point-blank range. The terrorists repeatedly attempted to move women and children into rooms that were shielded from the fire. Outside, local police tried unsuccessfully to convince the Russian troops to stop firing. In all, 312 people died, including ten FSB officers who died in the fire while attempting to save the hostages.
We know all this thanks to Marina Litvinovich, Putin's former image-maker and head biographer, who took up the challenge of investigating Beslan when Politkovskaya was incapacitated. In particular, she covered the trial of the one surviving hostage-taker not summarily executed by Russian troops. Held in tiny Beslan and "attended mostly by grief-stricken local residents," the trial would have passed in "utter obscurity" if Litvinovich had not posted an audiotape and transcript of every session online. Using courtroom testimony she reconstructed "what happened in the school hour by hour and, on the final day, almost minute by minute."
Based upon these easily accessible but little known facts, Gessen's analysis is not simplistic, as if the theatre siege and Beslan were both well-planned operations seamlessly conducted from start to finish. She gives due weight to cock-ups and unintended consequences which played out through "a series of wrong moves, unholy alliances, and wrecked plans." Yet the police and secret service officers clearly aided the terrorists in moving around Russia. While Putin's government "worked neither to prevent terrorist attacks nor to resolve crises peacefully....":
Once the hostage-taking occurred, the government task forces did everything to ensure that the crises ended as horrifyingly as possible — to justify continued warfare in Chechnya and further crackdowns on the media and the opposition in Russia and, finally, to quell any possible criticism from the West, which, after 9/11, was obligated to recognize in Putin a fellow fighter against Islamic terrorism. There is a reason that Russian troops in both Moscow and Beslan acted in ways that maximized bloodshed; they actually aimed to multiply the fear and the horror. This is the classic modus operandi of terrorists, and in this sense it can certainly be said that Putin and the terrorists were acting in concert.
Later, around one hundred Beslans accompanied Gessen and former chess champion Gary Kasparov on an emotional visit to the school. Entering through the giant holes in the walls of what used to be the gymnasium, where most of the children died, she noted that "the physical evidence suggested the gymnasium was damaged by tanks firing at point-blank range.... Inside, the space was charred — by a fire, the Mothers of Beslan believed, started by a flame-thrower used by the Russian troops (the state had acknowledged that flamethrowers were used, but denied that they could have led to a fire)."
The desolate scene spoke to the testimonies Litvinovich had documented on the website she called "The Truth About Beslan;" a title which only served to underline the mendacity of Putin and "the lies that form the foundation of this regime," as Gary Kasparov put it. Surveying the carnage, overcome with grief before distraught Beslan women, he declared: "I'm walking through this school, thinking: How do people in Moscow keep walking around, saying something, continuing to lie? Among them, there is someone who gave orders to open fire. If that person gets away with it, we will all be to blame!"
The head liar not only got away with it, he immediately exploited the tragedy. On 13 September 2004, "He gathered the cabinet, his own staff and all eighty-nine governors together, and spoke with them behind closed doors for two hours. The text of Putin's speech was then distributed to journalists." He said:
One cannot but weep when talking about what happened at Beslan. One cannot but weep just thinking about it. But compassion, tears, and words on the part of the government are absolutely insufficient. We have to act, we have to increase the effectiveness of the government in combating the entire complex of problems facing the country. ... I am convinced that the unity of the country is the main condition of success in the fight against terrorism.
He then announced a raft of changes to parliamentary elections and legislative procedures that quashed any remaining semblance of democratic process. As for Governors, they would no longer be elected; he himself would appoint them along with the mayor of Moscow. Within several months of Beslan these changes became law and "there remained only one federal-level public official who was directly elected: the president himself."
From thereon, it was ever more rapidly downhill as Putin set about realising his dream: a country where "A single intelligence officer could rule the fates of [hundreds of millions] of people." This return to his KGB roots and Soviet-like control is now on regular show in Western dailies which variously report: the confiscation of successful Russian companies fancied by Putin; the framing and incarceration of anyone he finds troublesome; the crushing of freedom of expression and a free press; constant intimidation, beatings and murders of influential politicians, wealthy businessmen and independent-minded journalists critical of his regime.
We have already mentioned several celebrated victims. The nightmares endured by a few others will further underline how Putin's lawless fiefdom is indistinguishable from those of China and Cuba, where farcical courts and state media also speak for the ruling elite, and guilty verdicts are a foregone conclusion.
Take Mikhail Khordorkovsky, at one time the richest man in Russia. Once a dedicated Communist who served as an economic adviser to Yeltsin's first government, Khordorkovsky discovered capitalism and became obsessed with making money. By 1992, aged 29, he had his own bank and was taking control of formerly state-owned companies, including Yukos, a giant oil conglomerate with one of the largest reserves in the world.
Then, in the late 1990s, having seen how capitalism could not only create wealth and happiness but also make people poor, hungry, and powerless, he abandoned his Gordon Gecco persona and gained a social conscience. He set up a foundation, Open Russia, which funded numerous good works: a boarding school for disadvantaged children (including dozens of survivors from Beslan); the training of journalists nationwide; the opening of provincial internet cafes to encourage people to learn and communicate. At one point he was said to be funding 80 percent of non-governmental organisations in Russia.
His troubles started when he engaged Western consulting and accounting consultants to turn Yukos into Russia's first multinational corporation, with real transparency from top to bottom. Soon after, in July 2003, a Yukos executive was arrested and several weeks later his head of security, a former KGB officer, was behind bars. Khordorkovsky was told by his advisers to get out of the country. But instead of genuflecting to Putin, after a brief sojourn in American he returned to tour Russia with a few assistants and eight body guards, promoting corporate and economic reforms the country desperately needed.
On 25 October 2003 he was arrested, transported to Moscow and indicted on six charges, including fraud and tax evasion. "Eighteen months later Khordorkovsky would be found guilty not on six but on seven counts and sentenced to nine years in a prison colony," writes Gessen. "Long before that sentence was up, he would be indicted on a new set of charges and then sentenced again, this time to fourteen years behind bars." Executives, managers, lawyers and staff of Yukos and its subsidiaries faced other charges and harsh sentences. Dozens more fled the country. "Even eight years after his arrest no one would be quite certain what exactly Khordorkovsky had done that had cost him his freedom and his fortune."
The answer, of course, was that he had dared to expose the endemic corruption. About six months before his arrest, in February 2003, Khordorkovsky had gathered Russia's wealthiest businessmen "for a rare discussion that was open to the media." Among the eight simple Power-Point slides he presented was one titled "Corruption Costs the Russian Economy over $30 Billion a Year," citing four different studies that had arrived at much the same figure. High school students, he told those present as they squirmed in their seats, planned their careers around making income from corruption. Putin was there and could barely contain his anger, at one point making "a thuggish threat" by wondering out loud how Yukos had attained its massive oil reserves; effectively accusing Khordorkovsky of having bribed tax inspectors and threatening a takeover of his company.
Khordorkovsky had also meddled in politics. He donated to parties, including small liberal parties, which Lord Putin had graciously allowed him to fund. But his contributions to the Communists were not acceptable to Putin.
In the end, as Andrei Illarionov, Putin's former economic adviser told Gessen, it all boiled down to this: "He [Khordorkovsky] did not go to prison for tax evasion or stealing oil, for God's sake. He went to prison because he was — and remains — an independent human being. Because he refused to bend. Because he remained a free man. This state punishes people for being independent."
Those who applaud Putin for standing up to Obama & Co. should note that Illarionov had also admired him. He told Gessen that he and many others took a long time to wake up:
Everyone had their turning point. Mine was Beslan. That was when I realized it was a modus operandi. There was the real possibility of saving lives, and he [Putin] opted instead for the killing of the hostages. ... I could see that if the standoff continued for at least a few more hours, lives would be saved, all of them or most of them. There would be no attack and the children and their parents and their teachers would be saved. And if this was the case, then there could be only one explanation for storming the school building when they did. It all became clear to me that day, September 3, 2004.
Consequently, Illarionov resigned his job as Putin's personal representative to the Group of Eight and then his job as economic adviser as well. He wrote a series of scathing articles in which he stated that Russia had become the opposite to a liberal economy: an unfree, warmongering state ruled by a corporate group.
Mikhail Kasyanov, the prime minister, also left. His turning point came when Khordorkovsky was arrested.
"There had been signs before," he told Gessen. "There was the television takeover and the handling of the theatre hostage crisis — all these were signs — but I did not think this was a plan. I thought these were mistakes that could be corrected. And I kept thinking this way right up until the point when Lebedev and Khordorkovsky were arrested. This was when I realized these were not accidental mistakes — this was policy, this was his general understanding of life."
After he criticised Putin's tactics in public, Kasyanov was fired by Putin and the consultant company he subsequently formed was subjected to crippliing tax audits. He became persona non grata in Russian politics and "went from mainstream to marginal as fast as any politician ever had."
Gessen also notes how the Western press cheered and encouraged Putin despite the cruelty and injustice regularly meted out to the likes of Khordorkovsky; how readily they accepted the contrived image of Putin as a "young, energetic, liberal reformer" at war with bloodsucking oligarchs:
That there was not a whole lot to report along this particular story line did not seem to concern most American journalists and editors. They glossed over the nationalisation of the media, portrayed the appointment of federal envoys to supervise elected governors as making order out of chaos — and increasingly chose to focus on economic topics.
This classic liberal aversion to the blindingly obvious continued until the systemic corruption, lawlessness, false imprisonments, and deaths became too outrageous and dreadful to ignore. The death in custody of Sergei Magnitsky, in November 2009, aged thirty-seven, was a tipping point.
Magnitsky, a young accountant, was employed by London-based financier William Browder to investigate the criminal confiscation of Browder's Russian company. (The grandson of a former head of the American Communist Party and a true believer, a few years earlier Browder had applauded Putin for arresting Khordorkovsky and "taking back control of the country from the oligarchs.") After uncovering an alleged £140 million tax fraud involving officials, Magnistsky was arrested in November 2008 in connection with the very scheme he had tried to expose. He, too, had thought it was all a big mistake and that everything would be cleared up with the help of his lawyers. Shuttled back and forth between two Moscow jails, he was denied medical care and died of peritonitis. Unfortunately for Putin, Magnitsky's family later released his notebooks in which he had voluminously recorded the inhumane treatment and beatings he suffered in jail which led to his death.
As a measure of the Communistic insanity, the regime continued to prosecute this case: not only against Browder in absentia, but also the deceased Magnitsky! "It's crazy," said Vera Chelisheva, a correspondent for Novaya Gazeta, the leading Russian opposition newspaper. "There is no accused. The dock is empty and everyone knows what the verdict will be, which is guilty. The main object is to discredit him and William Browder" [Daily Mail, 10/5/13]. Last July, a Moscow court finally convicted both men (Magnitsky of tax evasion). Browder continues to seek justice for Magnitsky.
Alexander Lebedev, the owner of Novaya Gazeta and a leading critic of Putin, faces a similar show-trial that could see him jailed for five years. The billionaire industrialist and media magnate, who also owns the liberal-left Evening Standard and Independent newspapers, was accused by Putin of hooliganism" and assault "motivated by political hatred" after he jostled with an opponent during a TV panel discussion which aired in September 2011. Given the arch-criminal record of the man he pushed, Lebedev was obviously set up. His various descriptions of the case — an act of political "revenge," a "vendetta," or an attempt to "silence" him and his paper — fit Putin's persona and modus operandi to a T.
"Normally a case like this would go no further than the magistrates' court. But this hooliganism charge is a quite serious article in the criminal code. I am bracing myself for the worst," he told the Daily Mail [10/5/13]. Needless to say his businesses have been targeted and he suffers FSB harrassment. "They are hoping I will leave the country," he said. "It's a standard procedure: first, they go against your business; then second is a smear campaign; and third is ... the threat of prison. [...] What is at stake is huge. We are probably the last remaining independent paper in the country and its fate hangs in the balance."
Transfiguration by Consecration
And so it goes. The "errors" of Russia persist: now embodied in the little thug seeking to turn the country into "a supersize model of the KGB." In Part 2, we will look at how those errors have spread to similar dehumanising effect "throughout the world," as forewarned by Our Lady of Fatima. In the meantime, beleaguered Western Christians should consider Masha Gessen's exposé before lauding Vladimir Putin's occasional church attendances, fond baptismal recollections, and his rebuilding of Orthodox churches. Her sobering work demolishes all wishful thinking about Putin's Russia. A century after Lenin first commandeered the country for Satan, it obviously remains under his terrible dominion.
Release from that enslavement is currently dependent upon the Holy Father moving beyond Marian devotions centred on Fatima (which he plans to oversee in Rome from 10-13 October), to actually consecrating Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. For as Jesus explained to Sister Lucia, it is by way of a simple ceremony that converts Russia to the Catholic faith that He wishes to inspire His Church to place devotion to the Immaculate Heart alongside devotion to His Sacred Heart. Accordingly, that spectacular transfiguration by consecration alone will usher in the promised era of world peace; awakening the Capitalistic West to the Communistic errors that have rendered its leaders and peoples deaf, dumb and blind to faith and reason.
The fierce irony, of course, is that Ms Gessen and the freedom-loving Russian liberals who litter her book personify this suicidal socialistic condition! For all their courage and patriotism, their agnostic/atheistic minds cannot comprehend the bedrock counsel of their famous compatriot Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who insisted from harsh personal experience that Godlessness is the first step to the Gulag. So while they rightly abhor Putin, they lack the Christian compass required to reorient and revive Russia. Indeed, as we briefly noted at the outset and will further elaborate, despite penning such a brave work (one which Russian publishers were too scared to touch), not only is the lesbian Gessen as ungodly as the "small, vengeful man" she so fearlessly lays bare, her "gay" mindset is more autocratic, and her agenda more destructive still.
Next month: the dictatorships of the relativistic West; ever more rootless, violent, vulgar, and oppressive.