Just a week into the Olympics, Russian President
Vladimir Putin blamed the incessantly unflattering media comments about Sochi and Russia
on old Cold War enemies. Then a day later his personal enemies joined the
chorus of critics. The British press busted out with a story that Marina
Litvinenko had won a victory in her quest to pin the 2006 death of her husband
Alexander on the Russian state.
That came against the background of other denigrating stories such as this Daily Mail headline: "The gangster's games: By endorsing Putin's murderous and corrupt regime, the Olympic movement has allowed itself to be hijacked by evil - as it once was by Hitler." All this hog wild slander must be music to the ears of Putin's political enemies, especially the followers of the late Boris Berezovsky, a group that includes Mrs. Litvinenko. They've scored a win.
The recent Litvinenko news reports followed the release of a highly controversial British High Court decision. Mrs. Litvinenko said that the court sided with her. The press called it her victory. But if you read the text of the decision, the story looks quite different.
Mrs. Litvinenko claimed that the government had no choice but to convene a secret inquiry to search for Russian culpability. The High Court rejected that argument. Earlier Home Secretary Theresa May had ruled against the secret inquiry idea. Now the High Court has asked May to submit additional arguments to support her position, but in no way requiring a different conclusion. That's the true story. But it's not what the media reported.
This effort to implicate Russia in Litvinenko's death is nothing new. It started with Boris Berezovsky back in 2006. He concocted the story that Putin ordered the killing, and masterfully tricked the world's media into believing it. He offered no facts as proof, just intriguing but unsubstantiated allegations.
Berezovsky didn't hide his motives. He wanted to destabilize Russia, delegitimize its leaders, and foment violent revolution.
Now, since Berezovsky's passing, his banner is being carried by Mrs. Litvinenko and British coroner Sir Robert Owen. Their main argument for the secret inquiry: the need to allay public concerns over the cause of Litvinenko's death. The hole in their argument, however, is that people were only concerned about this at the end of 2006, immediately after the death. I checked a Google report on UK interest in Litvinenko. It shows that the level of public interest barely rises above the zero mark, and only when stimulated by distorted news stories rehashing old arguments, just like the present example.