Earlier this year, I wrote about how Boris Nemtsov “mysteriously” found himself victim of a fatal drive-by shooting while taking a walk. As I noted there, he is far from the only notable Putin critic or whistleblower to meet this fate. It appears that we can add yet another name to this list: millionaire Alexander Perepilichny. There were already suspicions about his death, which happened in November of 2012, but these latest findings seem to confirm the speculation. From Australia’s ABC News:
A lawyer for Perepilichny’s life insurance company, Bob Moxon Browne, told the pre-inquest hearing into the death that test results had revealed a chemical that could be traced to the poisonous plant species Gelsemium.
“Once you have knocked out man-made analogues then you are bound to conclude Mr Perepilichny ingested Gelsemium on the day of his death,” he said.
“Then, given that it only grows in China and is a known weapon of assassination by Chinese and Russian contract killers, why was it in his stomach?”
Prepilichny, I should note fled Russia in 2009, and at the time of his death, was preparing to supply to the British government evidence of money laundering committed by Russian tax officials.
This story confirms to us a few things about Russia under Vladimir Putin. First of all, we are reminded that the country’s government is horribly corrupt, and all of that corruption happens because Putin allows it. Second, it brings back to the forefront the fact that Putin does not tolerate dissent well.
While America might not be able to stop everything a rogue autocrat like Putin does, cases like this are where American power, properly applied, could make a difference. I would add “Western European power”, too, but make no mistake, countries like France and Britain still look to us for leadership on this issue. Ronald Reagan made Russia’s human rights issues the first thing discussed in meetings with the country’s leaders. The Soviet Union might have fallen, but in Russia under Putin, some of the same old issues are surfacing again. Unfortunately, I would not bet on our present leadership pressing Putin too hard on the issue, if the past is any example to go by.