Litvinenko, UKIP, Berlusconi

The Litvinenko case just gets weirder, although perhaps a little simpler. Yesterday’s Observer ran a long report based on the testimony of a Russian doctoral student in London who got in touch with him whilst looking for information on Chechnya. Apparently he boasted of having not only a dossier on the Yukos case, but also sources in the FSB who would provide him with documents on command. He also said he planned to blackmail the Russian government and prominent persons with these documents, in order to escape his financial dependence on Berezovsky.

On the other hand, the role of Mario Scaramella becomes a little clearer with this must-read report in the Independent. It seems that essentially everything he has told British reporters is untrue. He is not an investigating magistrate, nor a professor, nor does his “Environmental Crime Protection Project” exist in any signal way. Instead, he appears to be a political operative of some kind.

Cast your mind back to 2001. Silvio Berlusconi had recently created a Senate committee to inquire into allegations of KGB penetration of Italy in the Cold War. This was known as the Mitrokhin commission, after the KGB archivist Vasily Mitrokhin, who supplied MI6 with a huge quantity of documents from the service’s archives. Now, there is plenty of stuff worth investigating from the Cold War in Italy, but the commission never produced anything of great interest, even though Berlusconi’s media outlets regularly trailed it. It was to this body that Scaramella was a consultant.

Not a very good one, as the Indy points out. His contributions were ridiculed by the opposition, and worse—he was allegedly taped discussing the possibility of framing Romano Prodi as a spy with the committee chairman, Paolo Guzzanti of (what else) Forza Italia. He claims, fascinatingly, that his source for this accusation was none other than Litvinenko. It may be worth pointing out that a genuine contemporary KGB officer, fellow-exile Oleg Gordievsky, thinks the claim is rubbish.

Enter the panto clown of the piece, UKIP MEP Gerard Batten, who seems to have lapped up Scaramella’s smear campaign hook, line and sinker – if you can be said to lap up a hook. If the efforts to dish Prodi failed to save Berlusconi, they did succeed in seeding the far-right’s meme pool with the idea that the EU is run by communists and/or Soviet/Russian agents. This has gained considerable traction in British Europhobe subculture, and UKIP has been keen on it. One wonders what will pass between Massimo D’Alema, Italy’s ex-communist foreign minister, and Vladimir Putin at today’s meeting.

Litvinenko seems to have been desperate to be taken seriously. Scaramella seems to have been desperate to shore up his allegations so that someone other than UKIP would still take him seriously. According to multiple press reports and Health Protection Agency statements, he shows no sign of illness, but that isn’t what he says to the Italian reporters (German link). When he speaks to Il Giornale, he is desperately ill, having himself been poisoned deliberately. It’s probably significant that this journal is a Mediaset paper.

Eventually, it looks like they both got what they wanted, to be taken seriously. In Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin, the narrator mocks a young communist activist’s fantasies of heroic resistance to Nazism, but realises that the Nazis will, in fact, take him seriously, at his own assessment, and torture him to death.

Which leaves the question of why? There’s no reason why “they” – whoever they are – would suddenly take him for a serious threat, unless he did have access to real secrets. The detail that he thought he had sources in the FSB reminds me very much of the 1920s “Trust”, a fake counter-revolutionary organisation set up by the then NKVD to lure in emigré and foreign agents. But then again, why go to the trouble – unless he really did have some genuine facts?

6 thoughts on “Litvinenko, UKIP, Berlusconi

  1. Ok so Romano Prodi’s an innocent?

    He was implicated in the murder of Aldo Moro, the former Italian PM.

    He told the police where Moro’s body was to be found. When they asked him how he had known where the body was, he said that the information came to him during a seance.

    It was in April 2006 that Litvinenko stated that Prodi was a KGB agent. It was announced by Batten in the EU parliament at the time. So far, no denial has been made.

    Clearly there is much dirt flying around now and many attempts to discredit Litvinenko. What is quite extraordinary is the way the British media are handling this. The possibility of KGB penetration of European capitals and the EU is not mentioned. It’s all ‘Shit Happens – But Only In Russia’. I’m not so sure.

  2. Umm…

    1) Strawman. I nowhere said that Prodi is an innocent, only that no-one has provided any evidence that he was a Soviet agent.

    2) Anyone with basic knowledge of Italian politics could tell you that Moro was an advocate of bringing the Communist Party into government. He was kidnapped by the extreme-left: this was the Brezhnev period, the apogee of Soviet conservatism. I recommend brief basic study into the Soviet Union’s view of the far-left: Kronstadt, Barcelona, etc.

    3) There has been a denial: Prodi has threatened to sue.

    4) Logical impossibility: how could a state that didn’t exist after 1991 infiltrate an institution that was created in 1992?

    5) The British press uninterested in spy allegations? Google “Melita Norwood”.

  3. Poor Putin! He kicks the rascals out of Russia to a welcoming West, where they have to make a living as hustlers, con men, blackmailers, fraudsters and petty arms traffickers. Then, when they have a falling out and settle their accounts, who gets blamed? Putin, of course!

    The context: Vladimir is in on the shitlist of the Western economic giants (and their captive governments and press) because he put a brake on the systematic ripoff of Russia inaugurated under a corrupt and compliant Boris Yeltsin. Little Cold War II has begun, and — after the gas supply flap — the press had gleefully seized upon the polonium affair to carry the battle onto Russian soil. I can tell you right now that the Scotland Yard “investigation” in Russia will fizzle into nothing, not because of Russian stonewalling, but simply because the Litvenko affair is, despite its partly-Russian cast of characters, a Western European matter.

    Although Scotland Yard is being forced by the GB/US press into conductiong a charade of an investion in Russia, please note that they are keeping that phony-“professor,” phony-“academic,” phony-“environmental consultant,” phony-“security consultant” non-Russian Scaramella under armed guard. This is, of course, “for his protection.” Mr. Scaramella is an industrious con man who has duped almost everyone (including his Forza Italia employers and, so far, the British press), but his story is unraveling. My prediction? After Scotland Yard has concluded its dog-and-pony show in Russia, it will start turning the screws on Scaramella. It might take a while, because he’s a professionally slippery fellow. But that’s when we will start learning the truth.

  4. To follow up: From what’s known about Scarmella, he’s not so much a “political operative” per se as a jack-of-all-trades who might well have followed a satisfactory career as a mid-level functionary in any dreary corporation or civil service. You have to concede that he has an agile mind, if nothing else! Instead, he has chosen — either due to a psychological bent (he is a Neapolitan, after all!) or to the lure of the easy money oozing from the “black” funds of government agencies — the semi-underworld of state secrets. All in all, not an attracive character, and probably now hoist on his own petard.

  5. “4) Logical impossibility: how could a state that didn’t exist after 1991 infiltrate an institution that was created in 1992?”

    The EC existed before. It is most likely that some KGB/FSB agents sit in Brussels.

  6. A lot said above may be true but how many ex-CP members now serve on the EU Commission?
    Fair enough, if they have renounced and publicly condemned their ex-mentors, but Mandelson for one never has. Read [shameless plug for own work]

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