Anna and Alexander

Prospect Magazine

Anna and Alexander

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There are critical differences between the killings of Litvinenko and Politkovskaya

Like many others who knew her, I was devastated by the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, Russia’s bravest human rights journalist. Now my dismay is compounded by the way her death has been subsumed in the disturbing but much murkier story of the death of Alexander Litvinenko. They are two very different stories—even if they suggest similar truths about today’s Russia.

The boyish features of Litvinenko were a fixture in London meetings and events about Russia over the last few years. He was undoubtedly a brave man, but I tended to avoid him because he was the protégé of a man who for me embodied the worst of Russia in the 1990s: the exiled businessman-turned-politician Boris Berezovsky.

Litvinenko’s allegations fed Berezovsky’s political vendetta against Vladimir Putin. Many of them seemed rehashed or politically skewed. Like others, Litvinenko suggested that the FSB, domestic successor to the KGB, might have been involved in

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Thomas de Waal

Thomas de Waal is the author of Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War (NYU Press) 

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