‘Betrayal’ and IntrigueA Russian Politician’s Life in Exile
Kseniya Kirillova hears warnings from a dissident former Russian politician, whose father is a close friend of Vladimir Putin, of renewed attempts to subvert democracy
An Unwelcome Guest
On 30 May, US President Donald Trump suggested postponing this autumn’s Washington G7 Summit because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also suggested inviting, besides the permanent members, the leaders of Russia, Australia, South Korea and India.
Russia was excluded from the G7 club in 2014 after its annexation of the Crimea. Since then, Trump has more than once made attempted to return Moscow to the ‘Big Seven’. Each time, he has been opposed by other world leaders.
His latest initiative was no exception. At the start of June, a representative of Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the UK Government does not support the inclusion of Russia in the G7. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed.
Russian political exiles agree with these Western leaders and emphasise that Russia’s inclusion in exclusive political clubs not only provides internal legitimacy to the Kremlin but also supplies it with the tools to undermine western democracies and persecute its own dissidents.
Putin’s Dissertation and the St Petersburg Coffers
Russian exile Olga Litvinenko – no relation to the former FSB agent and whistleblower Alexander Litvinenko assassinated in Britain in 2006 — lives in London.
She has experienced firsthand the efforts of the Russian system to ‘get to her’ abroad.
In 2010, she abandoned Russia with her four-month-old son Misha, in the wake of a conflict with her father – the rector of the Saint Petersburg Mining University – Vladimir Litvinenko, who is believed to be a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin and three times headed his electoral headquarters in St Petersburg.
According to Olga Litvinenko, her father was the author of Putin’s dissertation. In 2006, employees of the Brookings Institution in Washington determined that the dissertation was plagiarised in large part from William King and David Cleland’s ‘Strategic Planning and Policy’, published in 1978.
Olga Litvinenko claims the conflict with her father began when she was a member of the St Petersburg Parliament from 2007 to 2011.
“Father was very unhappy with me,” she told Byline Times. “In particular, he asked me to take part in so-called ‘work on the budget of Saint Petersburg’ so that he and his accomplices would get a significant part of the budget for their private business projects. I categorically refused, which my father considered ‘betrayal’. In his eyes, I ‘went against the family’, which meant I could no longer be considered his daughter.”
The situation was complicated by the fact that she already had a daughter at the time, Ester-Maria. Being separated from his long-awaited granddaughter because of his daughter’s ‘disobedience’ clearly did not fit into the plans of Vladimir Litvinenko. According to Olga Litvinenko, he simply took custody of her girl and tried to obtain custody of her son too.
Fearing losing a second child to her father, she fled to Poland in 2011. She married a Polish citizen and had two more children. In the meantime, her father declared that his daughter had been kidnapped, which permitted him to freeze her accounts in Russia and confiscate her property. Six of her assistants on the city council were convicted under various criminal statutes – all fabricated crimes, according to Olga Litvinenko.
She has not seen her daughter in the years that have passed and has no idea what she looks like. According to her testimony, Vladimir Litvinenko continues to tell his granddaughter that he is her father. Olga Litvinenko regularly records emotional videos for her daughter in the hope that, sooner or later, they will somehow meet.
Olga Litvinenko proved in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on 5 May that the Russian authorities had violated the principles of property protection by seizing her property in St Petersburg in connection with a “kidnapping case”. She says this was a farce.
“I spoke many times on the telephone with the investigator and told him that no one abducted me,” she told Byline Times. “The investigator knows perfectly well where I am and when I lived in Poland. He went there to get the testimony of my husband.”
“Revenge” from the Russian side followed not long after the victory in the ECHR. On 12 May, Olga Litvinenko received a summons to appear before an investigative committee in the case of the murder of a certain A N Livshits.
“Such a person actually died in 2005 when I was 22 years old,” she said. “At that time, I was working at the university for my father, and it’s possible I saw him a couple of times. But now, I can’t even remember who he was. This is not the first time my father has used law enforcement against me. In 2018, when the ECHR agreed to consider my case, Prosecutor Karpenko told me, if I did not stop seeking justice in the Western courts, he would institute criminal proceedings against me.”
Olga Litvinenko emphasises that the fabrication of criminal activities and the attempt to arrest and extradite political exiles, to exploit Interpol, is not the only way in which the Russian authorities violate international law.
“Now more countries understand that Russia can produce fabrications even on economic grounds that in fact conceal political persecution,” she said. “However, there are international agreements of mutual governmental assistance on civil and family matters that have also been ratified by Moscow. Russian authorities do not hesitate to exploit them to ‘punish’ those they find objectionable – for example, trying to take away property or children. And the more Western countries accept Russia as a full member of the ‘European Club’, the fewer reasons they have to refuse to enforce the unjust decisions of Russian courts.”
London: The Hub of Money Laundering
Olga Litvinenko also notes that various Russian oligarchs are actively trying to turn Britain into a hub for money laundering and the promotion of Moscow’s interests.
Last November, a scandal broke in the British press over the Government’s suppression of a parliamentary report into Russian influence in UK politics. The Times claimed that the report mentions nine Russian Conservative Party donors, and named three of them. The others have yet to be published.
According to Olga Litvinenko, her father is one of the people lobbying for Russian interests in the UK.
“There is now lobbying in London for the commercial interests of a company in which my father Litvinenko holds an interest, FosAgro,” she told Byline Times. “My father received shares of this company at about the time the former owner of this company, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was arrested and sent to prison.
“Further, in 2019 at the Russian Embassy in London, the Institute for Materials, Minerals, and Mining… signed a cooperation agreement with the Rector of the Mining University of Saint Petersburg – Litvinenko. On 26 May, they agreed on the organisation in Great Britain for a Centre for Competency Assessment in the mineral resources complex. I am certain that all of this will come down to another debasement of activity.”
She also believes that her father was one of the beneficiaries of the annexation of Crimea, having officially received property on the peninsula.
“It was for the annexation of the Crimea that Russia was expelled from the G7,” she said. “However, Vladimir Litvinenko, as one of the actual participants in the occupation, not only was not placed under sanction, doesn’t hide the fact that he is creating special structures intended to bring western technology into Russia in violation of existing sanctions. One might only imagine how much all of this activity could grow should Russia be re-admitted to the ‘Big Seven’.”