Britain acted to expel Russian diplomats on Monday for failing to extradite alleged assassin Andrei Lugovoi because they had reason to believe Vladimir Putin had sent a second assassin to the UK. The target this time? Boris Berezovsky, a strident Putin critic who had survived murder plots when living in Russia:
Boris Berezovsky fled Britain three weeks ago on the advice of Scotland Yard, amid reports that he was the target of an assassination attempt by a suspected Russian hitman.
The exiled tycoon and fierce critic of President Putin of Russia told The Times last night that he had been warned that it was not safe for him to remain in London, where he had been living since being granted asylum in Britain. ...
Reports last night claimed that an assassin was captured at the Hilton Hotel in Park Lane, West London, moments before he planned to kill Mr Berezovsky, whose offices are a short distance away. Scotland Yard said last night that it was not prepared to discuss the matter.
The revelation could help to explain why the new Government of Gordon Brown decided to take such tough action against the Kremlin this week. On Monday David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, ordered four Russian diplomats, believed to be members of the Russian security services, to leave Britain within ten days. He also announced measures to tighten visas for Russian officials visiting Britain.
Berezovsky returned after the immediate threat was removed, but he didn't give any indication that he would modify his fierce opposition to Putin as a result of the attempt. He told a television news program that he was "100% sure" that the Putin government had arranged the hit on Litvinenko and the attempt on his own life. Berezovsky trusts the British to give him the best protection, although he apparently gave no indication where he went when he fled Britain.
If true, it confirms that Putin has turned Russia as a Mafia-style piece of turf. This is even worse than the Soviets, who used to assassinate critics of the state, not just people who spoke out against a particular leader. Putin has become a megalomaniacal gangster, sending button men to rub out people and insulting the sovereignty of nominal allies.
The Russian president has threatened serious consequences for the expulsion of his diplomats from London. Perhaps it's time that the West consider serious consequences too, such as the expulsion of Russia from the G-8 as long as Russian state policy appears to include murder as a political tool. Terrorist states should not have access to financial markets or be included in global fiscal policy.