Kseniya Kirillova points out that, given Vladimir Putin’s habit for assassination, security agencies have no choice but to take new terror threats seriously.
The Czech newspaper Respekt, citing unnamed sources in intelligence agencies, alleged that a Russian agent with a diplomatic passport carrying the deadly poison ricin arrived in Prague two weeks ago.
According to Respekt, the poison was intended for Czech politicians whose actions had caused particular anger in Moscow: namely the mayor of the Prague 6 municipality Ondrej Kolar, who decided last month to remove the statue of Russian Marshal Ivan Konev; and the mayor of Prague, Zdenek Hrib, whose administration recently backed a decision to change the name of the square outside the Russian embassy to that of the murdered Russian opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov.
The news was treated seriously by the Prague authorities provided protection for Ondrej Kolar, Zdenek Hrib, and a third politician, Pavel Novotny. Kolar, the mayor of Prague 6 confirmed on television: “I have been granted police protection… on the basis of the certain facts that had been discovered. Those facts show that there is a Russian here who has been given the task of liquidating me. Not only me but also Mr. Hrib and Mr. Novotny.”
Soon, the Czech news site Lidovky Noviny published information that the agent who arrived on 14 March turned out to be a senior official of the Russian security service (FSB) whose duties don’t officially include foreign intelligence. According to the publication, the alleged assassin brought not only ricin but the second poison — saxitoxin. After taking these deadly poisons, initial symptoms similar to COVID-19 appear. An anonymous source also said that the target was not only Czech municipal officials but also Russian opposition leaders abroad.
Jakub Janda, director of the Czech European Values think tank, said in an interview with Voice of America that he was confident in the accuracy of this information. A number of Czech journalists also confirmed the reliability of the information in media appearances, expressing surprise and indignation at the fact that the FSB officer was still in the country and was not expelled by the Czech authorities.
In turn, the Prague political scientist Ivan Preobrazhensky observed that whether the notorious suitcase with ricin really existed or, the Kremlin has for the past several years has built up such a reputation many people can easily believe that Russian special services are ready to kill foreign officials just for dismantling the Konev monument.
These fears are supported by the aggressive statements of the Russian Foreign Ministry, the threats from numerous Moscow-sponsored Internet trolls, and the trail of previous killings, which are becoming more and more brazen every year.
The Assassination Habit
Less than two years after the assassination attempt on a former Russian GRU colonel Sergei Skripal in Great Britain, the Bulgarian prosecutor’s office recently accused three Russians of the attempted assassination of an arms dealer Emilian Gebrev, as well as his son and colleague.
Shortly afterwards, Bellingcat reported how the FSB ‘Vympel’ special forces organized the assassination of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin.
Two years ago I managed to find a witness who confirmed that the Russian special services had long been interested in deadly poisons.
Living in Russia, Felix Kubin used to do some assignments for Bashir Kushtov, whom he calls a high-ranking silovik — a politician with a military or security services background, connected to both the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the FSB. Now Kubin has received political asylum in the United States he agreed to share the details of his communication with Russian special services.
“Once, in a conversation with Kushtov, I mentioned that I know some chemists with their own high-tech laboratory for the manufacture of various substances.” Kubin told me in 2018. “Kushtov suggested that I buy from them, for good money, some interesting technology for the manufacture of poison that he planned to immediately test on someone. He was mostly interested in poisons that could instantly kill a person even with the slightest contact or no contact at all, and also solvents capable of delivering the poison under the victim’s skin,” Kubin said
Kubin also shared that Kushtov, according to him, promised a good payout if the poison worked. “This means that the victims had already been selected, and the poison was going to be tried out on them,” he concluded.
It’s clear that poisons such as the Novichok nerve agent, used on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, are developed not in private criminal laboratories, but at a much higher level.
Kubin’s revelations once again confirm that in Russia, decisions to kill the troublemakers are made at all levels. Moscow has never valued human life. The Russian Government’s well-known publicist Andrei Piontkovsky, for example, repeatedly suggests in his articles that the Kremlin considers the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe to be normal.
This declared readiness to kill without hesitation forms Russia’s reputation as a “criminal state” no less than the assassinations already committed.