Russia ‘ok’ with killing foreign heads of state
The Russian secret service authorised the “elimination” of individuals living overseas who were judged to be enemies of the state and ordered the creation of special units to conduct such operations, according to a document passed to The Daily Telegraph.
It is dated March 19, 2003 – four years before the killing of the former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London. It sets a provisional deadline of May 1 2004 for the new units’ work to begin.
It is understood the document is also in the possession of Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command which is investigating the Litvinenko case.
A hearing is to be held next week into whether a full inquest should take place into Mr Litvinenko’s death, as the Russian government has insisted that Andrei Lugovoi, the former KGB bodyguard who is a main suspect in the case, will never be extradited back to Britain.
Labelled “Secret documentation. For internal use only. Do not copy”, the leaked document refers to a law on “countering extremist activities” passed eight months earlier, although that law does not refer to the use of force.
The objectives, the directive says, are “observation, identification, possible return to the Russian Federation” of their targets.
But it also allows for “under special directives” the “elimination outside of the Russian Federation in the countries of Near Abroad [former Soviet states] and in the European Union, of the leaders of unlawful terrorist groups and organisations, extremist formations and associations, of individuals who have left Russia illegally [and are] wanted by federal law enforcement”.
Apparently with leaders of rebellions in the Caucasus in mind, among others, it names the crimes of those sought as terrorism, “extremist activity,” murder, kidnapping and “others classified as especially serious crimes against citizens of the Russian Federation and directed against the Russian state and government”.
The order sets up the “intensive training of the newly formed groups and units in relation to specific conditions of work in Western Europe and countries of the European Union”.
It says there will be “in-depth training of individual agent-analysts for work in the countries of European Union”.
It is signed at the bottom by Col General Nechaev, First Deputy Head of the FSB counter-intelligence branch and also bears the organisation’s stamp.
Colonel General Nechaev is a former civil and military health minister who was invited to London by the then health minister Virginia Bottomley in 1993 to “see the operation of the NHS at first hand”.
Vladimir Putin, then the Russian president and now the prime minister, pushed a law on “counteracting terrorism” through the Russian Duma in March 2006 which gave the FSB the power to kill “terrorists” abroad.
However, the latest document suggests an extensive secret programme was already in place.
The Russians have conducted controversial assassinations against Chechens in Dubai, Qatar, and Vienna. The latest, in Istanbul, was just last week, when a gunman shot a Chechen rebel leader and his two bodyguards dead in a busy street in Istanbul.
Mr Litvinenko died in a hospital bed in London in November 2006 after allegedly being poisoned by a former FSB bodyguard using radioactive polonium 210.
Other potential Russian targets in Britain include the oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who was the subject of a suspected assassination plot in 2007, and the Chechen dissident Akhmed Zakaev.
Mr Zakaev said: “I knew anytime that something like this could happen to me. They want to eliminate me before 2012 when Putin comes back to the Kremlin [as president]. They need to solve these ‘problems.’ That is what they call us and it doesn’t matter where we are.”
Mr Berezovsky said: “I knew this a long time ago and there were several attempts to kill me. I was lucky, I was warned and I am safe.”
He said he had been told again only a month ago not to travel abroad.