US believed Putin knew of dissident death plot: WikiLeaks

2nd December 2010, Comments 0 comments

A senior US diplomat believed Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin likely knew about a plot to kill dissident Alexander Litvinenko, according to a document released by WikiLeaks.

In the leaked cable published in Britain's Guardian newspaper on Thursday, US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried questioned whether it was possible for Putin not to know of any plot to murder the dissident, who died in London in November 2006.

During talks with a senior French diplomatic adviser in Paris shortly after Litvinenko's death, Fried asked "whether rogue security elements could operate... without Putin's knowledge" given the leader's "attention to detail," according to the cable detailing the meeting.

British police have accused ex-KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi of murdering the former Russian spy turned self-exiled Kremlin critic by lacing his tea with radioactive polonium in a London hotel.

In a separate leaked memo, a senior Spanish prosecutor claimed Russia was a virtual "mafia state" whose politicians operated "hand in hand" with organised crime.

Prosecutor Jose Gonzalez told US officials that "he considers... Russia to be a virtual 'mafia state'" where "one cannot differentiate between the activities of the government and organised crime groups," it said.

Gonzalez, who has been investigating Russian organised crime in Spain for a decade, also agreed with poisoned dissident Litvinenko's thesis that Russian intelligence and security services "owned organised crime."

The memo, sent in February of this year from the US embassy in Madrid, cited the senior prosecutor as claiming that "certain political parties in Russia operate 'hand in hand' with organised crime."

"He argued that the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was created by the KGB and its successor, the SVR, and is home to many serious criminals," the memo continued.

Gonzalez also alleged that Russian intelligence officials were behind the 2009 case of an Arctic Sea cargo ship which was suspected of carrying weapons destined for Iran.

In addition, the leaked cable suggested that Russian authorities used the mafia to carry out operations it could not "acceptably do as a government," citing the sale of arms to Kurds in order to destablilise Turkey as an example.

The document added the authorities took "the relationship with crime leaders even further by granting them the privileges of politics, in order to grant them immunity from racketeering charges."

Any crimelords who defied the country's Federal Security Service (FSB) could be "eliminated" either by killing them or sending them to prison, Gonzalez claimed.

Far from being a localised problem, Gonzalez said he also thought the mafia virtually ran Belarus and Chechnya and exerted "tremendous control" over vital components of the global economy, including aluminum.

A third leaked cable sent by US ambassador in Russia, John Beyrle, singled out Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov as a vital cog in Russia's organised crime machine.

"Despite Medvedev's stated anti-corruption campaign, the extent of corruption in Moscow remains pervasive with Mayor Luzhkov at the top of the pyramid," Beyrle said in a memo revealed by WikiLeaks.

"Luzhkov oversees a system in which it appears that almost everyone at every level is involved in some form of corruption or criminal behavior," he added in the cable, sent in February of this year.

© 2010 AFP

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