Litvinenko And Limonov

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by John Weaver

Since every British tabloid has linked the dissident Litvinenko with Politkovskaya, let’s link on...

As it happens, both Litvinenko and Politkovskaya were virtually unknown in Russia. You won’t find a copy of their ’sensational’ books anywhere here - nor in the Russian language, that anyone can read.

Their combined threat to the Kremlin didn’t add up to the square root of squilch.

All this will come as a shock to Daily Telegraph readers, but there isn’t really a lot of call for ‘fierce critics of Putin’ these days. Putin has a popularity rating of 79% at the last count.

Given Tony Blair’s 22% at the last council elections, one might well ask which country’s citizens are being forced to live under an unpopular regime.


Of course, Putin has his detractors. But what do real ‘heroic’ critics of Putin do? Well, on the whole they stay in Russia and protest in Russian, where they can be heard. Not a lot of point otherwise, is there? So you have to ask why they haven’t all been poisoned. Or - much better question - why Lord Bell’s PR firm has never espoused a single one of their worthy causes.

Probably the most courageous Russian dissident of recent times is Eduard Limonov. Who? That’s the whole point. In 2001, the acclaimed but greying, 50 year old writer was jailed on the most bizarre charge of raising an army to march on Kazakhstan. It didn’t merit a Western column inch. Ask Mark Ames of the Exile:

The Western media, so pious in its defense of Russian dissidents who share their liberal values, ditched all pretense of ‘defending to the death’ those with whom they disagree. In Limonov’s case, they suspended their liberalism and kept a conspiracy of silence.
Unlike Litvinenko, Limonov wasn’t writing propaganda to order for Western consumption. He was a nationalist who - though unbelievable to Daily Telegraph readers - actually liked Russia. Oh, and he was also penniless. So when he was slammed in Lefortovo as a dissident, no Pottinger PR hack was paid to write about ‘beating wings taking him away‘. He just got beaten up and taken away, end of story.

But all this was just a few short years ago. Remember? A weakened Russia’s assets were up for grabs. Britain’s City yuppies were set to plunder Russian banking and Shell and BP would corner the oil and gas. Under Yeltsin and the mobsters, it was like taking candy from a baby. So, note to editors - don’t embarrass our new friends.

By 2003, Mark Ames had spent a lonely two years on a ‘Free Limonov’ campaign and no one wanted to know - not even Amnesty International. (I should know, I wrote to them personally without reply.) Incredibly, not even the French Government wanted to comment, even though Limonov held French citizenship. Mark noted that, if it had happened during the Cold War proper, a dissident writer like Limonov would have been given a Nobel Prize, just to say ‘fuck you CCCP’. But now there were big bucks to be made by the West so Mark hit a brick wall. Dissidents dissing Russia not wanted. ‘This story is all a bit fringe‘ he was told.

My my how times change. Now again we see those evil, energy hogging Russkies for what they are. And suddenly, dissidents are right back in media fashion.

Today, UK’s Labour Minister Peter Hain joined the chorus of Telegraph readers and declared that the ‘murky murder cast a shadow over Putin’. Moralising Peter Hain, by the way, just happens to be one of our Labour Ministers who refused to condemn Guantanamo Bay.

On second thoughts, maybe Litvinenko should get a Nobel Prize. He doesn’t deserve one as much as a real dissident writer like Limonov. But Sasha’s affair has exposed the hype and hypocrisy of the British media establishment like nothing else.


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