Abramovich’s poisoning is another example of the Stalinisation of modern Russia

Abramovich may have gotten off relatively lightly with potentially life-changing injuries, rather than an ice pick in the cranium

Sean O'Grady
Monday 28 March 2022 18:44
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<p>Roman Abramovich put Chelsea up for sale on March 2, having bought the club in 2003 (Adam Davy/PA)</p>

Roman Abramovich put Chelsea up for sale on March 2, having bought the club in 2003 (Adam Davy/PA)

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It says a lot for the brutal, medieval, sadistic reputation of Vladimir Putin that anyone would even think it possible let alone probable he’d have poisoned – blinded by the sounds of it – “one of his own”.

Yet the signs are that – either on his orders or “working to Putin” in a vaguer manner – his hoodlums have administered a typical FSB-style dose of something highly toxic to Roman Abramovich and, naturally, a team of Ukrainian peace negotiators.

It’s hardly new. Assassination has long been an instrument of policy under Putin, and his dictatorial predecessors, Bolshevik and Tsarist alike. He is an enthusiastic students of such past leaders, anxious to emulate their crimes and their glories. He is a Russian imperialist who’d be at home in the twentieth or nineteenth century, and equally careless about the lives of others.

Fresh investigations suggest the murder of Boris Nemtsov, shot dead in 2015 near the Kremlin, was in fact an assassination ordered by the Kremlin. It was no coincidence that, on that occasion the Russian state took no chances and went for their old reliable friend the bullet, because Nemtsov was the most formidable political opponent Putin ever had to face.

We know all about the attempted assassination and poisoning of Alexei Navalny, the nearest thing Russia has to be a leader of the opposition, and now banged up on bogus charges. Journalists, such as Anna Politkovskaya of the Novaya Gazeta (brother publication of The Independent), have been especially targeted, as well as dissidents and emigres including the Skirpals in Salisbury and Alexander Litvinenko, among many others.

Less prominent and celebrated figures have been beaten up, jailed, disappeared and assassinated by the Putin government. More and more it resembles the worst, most barbaric habits of the Soviet Union. It is little wonder that its former satellites and Soviet republics, including Ukraine, cannot wait to join "the west" – Nato and the EU.

It is all part of the Stalinisation of modern Russia. Rule through terror; suppression of dissent; the dissolution of enemies of the autocrat no matter how prominent or fondly they used to be regarded. In a way, if the suspicions are correct, Abramovich is like a modern day Trotsky: he got off relatively lightly with potentially life-changing injuries, rather than an ice pick in the cranium.

It is a dark moment, but also one that calls for some optimism. The dream is that the series of military and economic disasters that Putin is visiting upon his people will turn them, and maybe the army and parts of the Kremlin elite, against Putin.

Soon there will be few markets for Russian goods, no western investment and no cultural or sporting links. Not to mention no McDonalds. Russia will be reduced to a client state of a China. Perhaps there’ll be a palace coup, perhaps a popular uprising, maybe a mutiny or two among the bewildered conscripts.

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At some point, the dam will burst, and the terrible truth about Putin, his lies, failures, cruelties and corruption will spill out into the public domain, and there’ll be another Russian revolution. And then the stalled process of Russia rejoining the international community will begin again, with the freedom and prosperity that will follow.

The mistakes of the past can begin to be repaired, and this time, the west must make a better job of supporting Russia than it managed in the years after the end of the USSR in 1991. No one in the west ever had a grievance with the people of Russia, who sacrificed so much in the genuine struggle against Nazis some 70 years ago.

Except, that is, Putin, who must have secretly despised them, so little does he seem to care for their lives and happiness of his compatriots. One day he’ll be gone, and it might be sooner than he thinks. Joe Biden was right - he cannot be in power. Someone might even poison him...

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