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22.09.2018

These 8 Russian ‘traitors’ died suspiciously on foreign soil.

The March 4 nerve-gas attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal, 66, in the UK is far from the first time Vladimir Putin’s brutal regime has been suspected of harming opponents on foreign soil. Russia stands alone among the world’s major powers in its cold, calculating use of murder and mayhem to get revenge on its own...
Time: 10:42     Date: 17.03.2018
Last US News: These 8 Russian ‘traitors’ died suspiciously on foreign soil. NY Post 24 - US News

Russia stands alone among the world’s major powers in its cold, calculating use of murder and mayhem to get revenge on its own citizens outside its borders. In 2006, the Russian parliament gave its leadership the legal right to kill with near impunity outside the country.

“Traitors always end badly. Traitors will kick the bucket. Trust me,” Putin said in 2010. “These people betrayed their friends, their brothers-in-arms. Whatever they got in exchange for it, those 30 pieces of silver they were given, they will choke on them.”

While his regime has denied involvement in every case, investigators and intelligence experts have laid these eight other victims — all of whom met death or brutality outside of Russia — at Putin’s feet.

Boris Berezovsky

Hanged in a supposed suicide in Berkshire, UK, 2013

Boris BerezovskyPA Photos /Landov

The uber-oligarch of the 1990s, Berezovsky had the juice to help maneuver Putin into the presidency. But his hope to use the new leader as his personal puppet backfired badly.

Berezovsky was close to President Boris Yeltsin and partnered with other insiders to gain control of some of the former Soviet Union’s biggest state businesses, including the Aeroflot airline, the newspaper Kommersant and oil and metal companies, earning billions in the process.

But within weeks of taking power, Putin ordered Berezovsky to sell his national TV network — and later charged him with criminal embezzlement in his Aeroflot acquisition. Berezovsky fled and was granted asylum in Britain in 2003.

The furious billionaire promptly set up a political foundation in London and began a denunciation campaign against Putin, blowing millions on full-page newspaper ads and independent publications. “It isn’t possible to change [Putin’s] regime through democratic means,” he said in 2007. “There can be no change without force.”

Berezovsky survived at least two assassination attempts. But in 2013, a month before he was to testify at the inquest into the radiation-poisoning death of his colleague Alexander Litvinenko, he died at age 67 — strangled with a scarf in an apparent suicide in his ex-wife’s London home.

“Nobody among those who knew Berezovsky thinks it was suicide,” his confidant Akhmed Zakayev said at the time. “This death is part of a pattern.”

On Monday, Berezovsky associate Nikolai Glushkov, 68, was found dead at his London home. British police said they are treating his death as a homicide.

Aleksandr Poteyev

Died or disappeared while in hiding in the US, 2016

Poteyev was the quintessential spook: shadowy in life and even more amorphous in death.

As a colonel in Russia’s foreign intelligence service, the SVR, Poteyev worked in “Main Department S,” the group that trains and manages spies sent to live abroad long-term.

He was the handler for sexy red-headed spy Anna Chapman and her ring of 10 Russian agents who embedded themselves in and around New York City, Cambridge, Mass., and the Washington, DC, suburbs for more than a decade.

Poteyev apparently sold the group out to US authorities from the very beginning: None of them got close enough to their targets to commit any actual espionage. He fled to the US in 2010, just before the Kremlin learned of his double-cross. He was tried in absentia, stripped of his rank and sentenced to a 25-year prison term.

Traitors like Poteyev “will have a stake in their throat, I assure you,” Putin told the nation. “To hide their whole lives, not to have the opportunity to talk to their loved ones. You know a person who chooses such a fate will regret it a thousand times.”

The Russian Interfax news agency claimed that Poteyev died in the US at 64 in 2016, but American authorities have not confirmed or denied the story.

Leonid Rozhetskin

Disappeared in Latvia, March 2008

This flamboyant billionaire was 41 when his 2008 disappearance made headlines in the UK. “My son isn’t missing. My son is dead,” his mother Elvira told the press. “He was determined to expose the level of corruption in the Russian government . . . This was a professional hit by hired Russian agents.”

Born in Leningrad, Rozhetskin immigrated to the United States at age 14 and became a US citizen. He won a scholarship to Columbia University, graduated from Harvard Law School and landed a job with a top law firm before becoming a Russian “re-pat” after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

He cashed in on the capitalism gold rush by founding Russia’s first investment bank, making millions while still in his 20s. He dabbled in a range of industries, including film, setting up a partnership with Disney Company scion Eric Eisner. He also stumbled into a complex business dispute over a mobile-phone company that allegedly infuriated Putin crony Leonid Reiman, the Russian telecommunications minister.

In March 2008, police were called to Rozhetskin’s lavish beachside villa in Latvia by a worried friend. Inside, they found upturned furniture, smashed windows and blood — but no billionaire. His car turned up miles away, also smeared with bloodstains.

Rozhetskin’s status as an US citizen got the attention of the FBI, which joined the investigation. But authorities were baffled for four years, until a badly decomposed body was discovered in a wooded region west of his Latvia home. A credit card belonging to Rozhetskin was on the corpse. It took more than a year to confirm the body as his.

Viktor Yushchenko

Survived dioxin poisoning in Kiev, Ukraine, 2004

In September 2004, former prime minister Yushchenko was running for president of Ukraine against Putin ally Viktor Yanukovych. Yushchenko aimed to reform the government’s chronic corruption and align Ukraine with the EU.

Days after he sat down to a private dinner with the head of the Ukrainian security service, a puzzling series of worsening symptoms — abdominal pain, muscle weakness, skin lesions, facial paralysis and a strange gray pallor — landed Yushchenko in a Vienna hospital. There, horrified doctors found that his blood contained the second-highest level of dioxin contamination ever recorded. The chemical is a major component of Agent Orange, the herbicide used by US forces in Vietnam.

Yushchenko continued to campaign, despite his disfigured face and a catheter plugged into his spine to provide constant painkillers. He made the assassination attempt an election issue. “Friends, this is not a problem of cuisine as such,” Yushchenko said in a Sept. 21 speech. “We are talking about a Ukrainian political kitchen, where assassinations are ordered!”

Yushchenko went on to win the presidency after charges of electoral fraud against Yanukovych turned tens of thousands of Ukrainians onto the streets and forced a re-vote in the bloodless “Orange Revolution.” No one was ever charged in the attack. Yushchenko lost a bid to win his party’s nomination for a second term in 2010 and retired from politics, but the 64-year-old has hinted at mounting a comeback.

Badri Patarkatsishvili

Died of supposed heart attack in Surrey, UK, 2008

Known as the “original oligarch,” Patarkatsishvili scooped up a massive fortune in the years after the Soviet Union fell. The crony capitalism of the Boris Yeltsin era gave the investor free rein to take billions in assets: Aeroflot, the Sibneft oil group, aluminum company Rusal, car manufacturer AvtoVAZ and two national TV stations.

But when Yeltsin resigned on New Year’s Eve in 1999 and Putin took power, Patarkatsishvili’s partnership with brash billionaire Boris Berezovsky put him on the new leader’s hit list.

“Are you with Boris or with us?” Putin demanded in a meeting at the Kremlin. “If you are with us, you can stay in Russia and your business will flourish. But if you are with Boris, you must understand that everything which hit him will hit you, too.”

Patarkatsishvili got the message and fled Russia in 2001. Still, he and other ’90s oligarchs were targeted with retroactive criminal charges for supposed economic offenses. He lashed back in the pages of The New York Times in 2002, declaring “Putin turns Russia into a banana republic.” In constant fear of assassination, he maintained a phalanx of bodyguards at his palatial homes.

At age 52, the billionaire died suddenly at his mansion in Leatherhead in the south of England. Police ruled the cause of death as a heart attack.

Yet doubts linger. In 2017, American spy sources told BuzzFeed News of intelligence suggesting that Patarkatsishvili had been murdered — and noted that Russian agents commonly deploy poisons that kill by setting off cardiac arrest.

Alexander Perepilichnyy

Died of a gelsemium-induced heart attack, Surrey, UK, 2012

Few 44-year-olds drop dead of heart attacks. Fewer still are whistleblowers calling out Putin allies in high-profile tax fraud cases.

Alexander Perepilichnyy was a Russian banker who fled to London in 2009 with records that allegedly exposed a massive tax fraud that benefited Putin cronies. He was assisting investigators in Switzerland probe a money-laundering scheme that washed $230 million in pilfered taxes through Swiss bank accounts.

In 2012, the apparently healthy Perepilichnyy keeled over while jogging in his exclusive neighborhood in the London suburbs. British police insisted there was nothing suspicious about his death. But three years later, a life-insurance company investigator found gelsemium, a poison derived from toxic Himalayan plants, in his stomach.

British authorities stalled the investigation for years on national-security grounds. An inquest into Perepilichnyy’s death finally began in June 2017, with further hearings scheduled for this April.

Mikhail Lesin

Died of blunt-force trauma in Washington, DC, 2015

Media mogul Lesin managed to maintain his status as a Kremlin insider under both Yeltsin and Putin — for a while, at least. The founder of the RT news network, he was a top communications adviser to both presidents for years.

But it’s difficult to remain in Putin’s good graces forever.

Lesin left the government in 2013 to run Gazprom Media, a division of the giant energy company controlled by Putin pal Yuri V. Kovalchuk. He quit his position with the company a few months later in what Kremlin watchers took to be a sudden falling-out with Kovalchuk — and, by extension, with Putin himself. He faded from public view.

When the 57-year-old Lesin resurfaced in November 2015, he was found dead in a Washington, DC, hotel room. He had sustained multiple blunt-force injuries to the head, neck, torso, arms and legs. After a year of scrutiny, local investigators concluded that Lesin, drunk and alone, had inflicted the wounds on himself.

But in a 2017 media report, federal law-enforcement sources said that Lesin had been in Washington to talk with Department of Justice officials about RT, which has since been blamed as a fount of Russian misinformation during the US presidential campaign. Sources told BuzzFeed News that the former Putin aide was bludgeoned to death — the night before his scheduled meeting with the feds.

Alexander Litvinenko

Killed by polonium poisoning in London, 2006

This former FSB officer was one of Putin’s earliest enemies: In November 1998 he publicly demanded anti-corruption reforms in the agency, the post-Soviet version of the KGB — months after a new chief named Vladimir Putin took the agency’s reins.

Two years later, facing trumped-up charges of assault and theft, he fled for London with the help of rabidly anti-Putin oligarch Boris Berezovsky. While there, Litvinenko wrote “Blowing Up Russia,” a book blaming Putin for a series of 1999 bombings that killed 300 Russians as a pretext to wage an internal war on Chechen separatists. He became a consultant for MI6, the British intelligence service and won British citizenship in October 2006.

Then he began to cough up blood.

Tests showed high levels of radioactive polonium-210, the most toxic poison known when inhaled or swallowed, in Litvinenko’s system. Forensic analysis proved the material came from a Russian nuclear reactor and had been administered in a pot of green tea served at London’s Millennium Hotel.

Haunting photos of Litvinenko in his hospital bed — bald, emaciated and jaundiced — appeared in newspapers worldwide in the three weeks it took the dissident to die.

“You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr. Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life,” Litvinenko said in a statement read to the press after his death. “May God forgive you for what you have done.”

In 2016, nearly a decade later, a British inquiry formally found that two former Russian agents had carried out the hit on Litvinenko, most likely on Putin’s orders.

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