Analysis

British Probe of Putin Rival's Murder Spotlights Russian Liquidations

From poisonous umbrella to nerve gas: Nikolai Glushkov is the latest in long line of anti-Kremlin victims

Forensic tent, covering the bench where Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found in Salisbury, Britain, in March 2018.
Peter Nicholls/Reuters

Nikolai Glushkov, a prominent opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was found dead in his home in London in March. This week, the British police announced that they had opened a murder investigation into Glushkov’s death.

This isn’t the first time a Kremlin critic has been found dead in Britain under mysterious circumstances, and the list keeps growing. These are some notable examples.

Glushkov was found strangled to death on the very day he was supposed to testify in court in a lawsuit against him by Russia’s national airline. A British judge subsequently said that Aeroflot had persecuted him “to the bitter end.” The suit was widely seen as politically motivated and Kremlin-backed.

Glushkov was close to another Putin opponent, oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who also died under mysterious circumstances. Police said that so far, they have found no connection between Glushkov’s death and the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal one week earlier

Sergei Skripal, the former Russian spy, and his daughter were poisoned in March with the nerve agent Novichok, which was developed in the Soviet Union. Britain accused Russia of responsibility and expelled 23 Russian diplomats. Other Western countries followed suit.

Sergei Skripal in Moscow court, 2006
Yuri Senatorov/AFP

Skripal retired from Russian intelligence with the rank of colonel. Later, in 2006, he was convicted of spying for Britain and sentenced to 13 years in jail. Specifically, he was convicted of divulging the identities of Russian agents working undercover in Europe in exchange for payments totaling $100.000.

Boris Berezovsky was found dead at his home in Berkshire in 2013, about six months after losing a lawsuit filed against him by another Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich. His lawyer said he committed suicide.

Boris Berezovsky, 2011
AFP

Berezovsky, whose father is Jewish, made a fortune buying up Russian companies in the era of privatization that followed the communist regime’s collapse. But his status declined after Putin’s election in 2000. He quarreled with the new president and went into exile in Britain after being accused of corruption.

Russia tried to extradite him, to no avail. In an interview with Haaretz in 2012, Berezovsky said Putin had tried to have him assassinated him three times.

Alexander Perepilichny, a Russian businessman who exposed a $230 million tax fraud involving senior Russian officials and the Russian mafia, was found dead near his home in Surrey in November 2012. He had told his wife repeatedly that he was in danger from the Kremlin.

Russian tycoon Alexander PerepilichnyYouTube

In 2015, a toxicologist found traces of a rare poison in his stomach. This appeared to contradict the police’s initial statement that there was nothing suspicious about his death.

Alexander Litvinenko in his hospital bed in November 2006.
Reuters

Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent who fled to Britain in 2000, was a prominent critic of Putin, whom he accused of having links to organized crime. In 2006, he was poisoned with a radioactive isotope, polonium 210, which was put into his tea in a London restaurant. He died three weeks later.

Two years ago, a British investigation concluded that Putin had authorized Russia’s security service, the FSB, to murder Litvinenko, and that the murder was carried out by two Russian nationals. At Britain’s request, Interpol issued arrest warrants for them. Putin denied any connection to Litvinenko’s death.

Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian author and journalist, murdered in 1978.YouTube

Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian author and journalist who opposed the communist regime and defected to the West, was murdered in 1978. He was waiting for a bus on Waterloo Bridge in London when a Bulgarian secret policeman stabbed him with the tip of his umbrella and thereby injected a pellet filled with ricin into his body. Markov died of the poison three days later.