In his new book Putin's Labyrinth, Steve Levine delves into the workings of Russias strongmen and exposes the clandestine ways in which they use to retain, secure and advance their positions. He further lays bare the rot and chaos that is the norm in Vladimir Putin's rule. According to him, political dissidents and journalists who are opposed to regime in power, have no place as there are powerful elements that conspire to eliminate them; all in favor of the current leadership (LeVine, 2008).
The picture that Levine painted of post-communist Russia is that of death as can be noted in his choice of title Spies, Murder, and the Dark Heart of the New Russia. In fact the opening sentiments are, This is a book about death in Russia. Vladimir Putin is painted as the Lord of impunity. With him, anything goes. Be it eliminating political dissidents to corruption, there is no limit to what Vladimir can do.
Levine posits that Putin has had a hand in the bloody ordeals that took place in Russia. He further lists a series of events. A case is given of the gassing of about 100 people in 2002 by government troops when terrorists struck a theatre in Moscow.
Another case is given of the shooting of Paul Klebnikov on July 2004 by unknown assailants. This case had apparent coincidences. Levine points out that the assailants were closely following Klebnikov for some time in a slow moving vehicle (LeVine, 2008).
When Klebnikov was shot, apparently it took a whole hour for emergency services to respond. And when an ambulance arrived on site, it apparently had no oxygen bottle. It gets better; when Klebnikov is brought to the hospital, the elevator that he was put in apparently breaks down and he bleeds to death.
Levine further indulges readers to how Vladimir Putin enjoyed his 2006 birthday present; the blood of Anne Politkovskaya, a fierce critic of government and popular journalist. She was shot dead in the elevator of the apartment she lived in.
Well, seems Putin has a thing for elevators. In the same year, Alexander Litvinenko apparently died from polonium poisoning in his tea. We are told he was a KGB defector. Not surprising (LeVine, 2008). What was intriguing about these outrageous ordeals, as Levine puts it, is the inaction and aloofness of Vladimir Putin. Levine has strong reason to believe that Russia ought to be scrapped of the list of countries that are civilized.
He does not understand how a country that accepts such bloodshed for a long time can be mentioned in the same league with other civilized countries. He is personally demoralized by how the greater population tolerates such heinous acts. In fact, he mentions that perhaps leaders like Putin get away with these bloodsheds since it is what the people expect and surprisingly want of them.
Levine, in this book, tries to link the dark past and the present state of affairs in Russia. A sad case is given of the 16th century where a mother was gang raped and later brutally murdered. It is said that hunting dogs were treated to a feast of her bones.
Sadly, the mother in this case was a princes mother, and she underwent this disgrace simply because she disappointed Ivan the Terrible. Alexander Litvinenko, before his death due to polonium-210 poisoning, faced an initial attempt on his life. It is said he was quietly shot, but when he survived, someone just had to finish the job by poisoning him. And as the norm with Russians, they were as passive as they could be. None was inclined to care about these happenings.
As Levine points out, there is no difference between the old Russia and the New Russia. His direct sentiments are Now Russia is again Russia. The only distinction that he notes is that the FSB, which is the present day equivalent to KGB, comes second to none. It does not answer to anyone and it uses whatever tactics that are at its disposal to achieve their goals.
According to Levine, the hit men used to propagate such acts operate in well-organized but shady circles. They work hand in hand with criminal elements that work with so much zeal to appease the bloody regime.
It goes without saying that such criminal elements have some degree of protection from the regime; that is why they cannot be easily caught, suppressed or even punished. Levine is not surprised when Putin sings a decree that permits intelligence agencies to undertake assassinations of Russias enemies even if they are overseas. The justification being that no one should slander or talk about the President in bad light.
Talk of someone going far to cover their tracks. At present time Levine notes that there is no change at all in the air of lawlessness and impunity in Russia. The government of Dmitry Medvedev brings no change. In fact, he comments that Russia has a face of a bully that has an air of self-importance.
Even in matters of foreign affairs, the activities of NATO in the south and west of Russia was seen to be misguided. But that was the expectation owing to Russia nationalism. So if there is any hope of Russia being civil again, Levines sentiments in this book provided a bleak future.
LeVine, S. (2008). Putin's labyrinth: Spies, murder, and the dark heart of the new Russia. New York: Random House.
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