You may recall how various Russophile wackos have claimed that Alexander Litvinenko was too small a fish in the Kremlin’s eyes to justify taking any action against him; in essence, they say, the Kremlin couldn’t care less about him. Reader Jeremy Putley directs us to a report from the Polish newspaper Dziennik, which reports that the FSB has been using Litvinenko’s image for target practice. A video is available here and below is an image from a Russian website with more photographs of the target practice scenes.
One must say that Mr. Putley is far more than just a “reader” and is in fact an important driving force behind the movement for democratization and justice in Russia as a contributor not merely to this blog but also to David McDuff’s A Step at a Time and Norbert Strade’s Chechnya List. La Russophobe is indebted to him for his invaluable contributions to this effort and to this blog, as are all those concerned with opposing the rise of the neo-Soviet Union in Russia.
Putley offers, via Strade’s Chechnya List, the following translation from the Polish press (if any reader has a facility with Polish language and can translate the entire Dziennik article, LR would be delighted to receive it): “Sergei Mironov, the Chairman of Russian Federation Council, the third person in the country, visited a shooting range with targets that had portraits of murdered former FSB officer Aleksandr Litvinenko. On the internet site of the Center of Russian special services Vityaz we have found a photo of Mironov against a background of targets with Litvinenko. Sergei Mironov visited Vityaz on November the 7th. On one of these photos he wears earmuffs and safety glasses. We don’t know if he was actually firing or just wore shooting acessories, because someone else was firing at targets standing beside him.”
This information about Mironov (pictured, below left) was subsequently censored, according to SCL, which adds more translation as follows:
Our source, a person connected with special units, explained to us that this videoclip was taken during practice of spetznaz in the Vityaz Centerm 10 km from Moscow, in the town of Balashikha. Exactly 2 days after the attack on the theater at Dubrovka (23 Oct.2002). This is the base of Russian special units, assembled from veterans of spetznaz, Alfa (units of the former KGB, now FSB) and Vityaz (Interior Ministry anti-terrorists unit). Soldiers of these formations were extracting hostages in Dubrovka and Beslan.
Nervous reaction of Russians
Reaction of Russians when we asked about that videoclip in the Center Vityaz was very fast. From Center’s webpage immediately has disappeared that picture on which a shooting target with Litvinenko’s silhuette can bee seen. We were able to copy it from the site (see above right, photohere)
Colonel Sergei Ivanovich Lysiuk, the commander of the Center, belittles the issue: “It appeared to you (that was him). Nobody fires at picture of Litvinenko” – he told to our journalist. “But on the Center’s webpage we also found a picture on which a target with Litvinenko can be seen” – we were inquiring. “Where it is says that this is Litvinenko? – he asked ironically.
When we phoned him one more time with a question why after our call that picture has disappeared from the Center’s webpage, colonel Lysiak reacted nervously:” Girl, you just think (that was him). Goodbye” – and he hung up the receiver. Military attache in the Russian embassy Vladimir Bietekhin, asked by dziennik.pl to comment about this, he first send us to the department of Interior Ministry in Moscow, and then asserted that he didn’t know Litvinenko. Also added that there’s nothing unusual in firing by the commandos at human silhuettes. “To think like this, we can go too far, because putting questions if soldiers shoot at human silhuettes, to learn to kill something concrete, that’s a complicated philosophy” – he put us off.
UPDATE. Now, Jeremy Putley points out that the AP has got the story. Here’s their report:
A private facility that trains security personnel used pictures of poisoned Russian ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko’s face for target practice during a competition for special forces, the center’s chief said on Tuesday. In video circulating the Internet, trainees dressed in camouflage maneuver between slats in a wall, leap through an obstacle course, then tumble to a semi-sitting position with outstretched arms aiming their weapons at a black-and-white target showing Alexander Litvinenko’s face. Several black holes appear on the target near the ex-spy’s nose before the video goes black. Click here to watch video of trainees firing at the Litvinenko target.
Sergei Lysyuk, Vityaz Center‘s chief, said the video is from 2002 and shows military recruits. He said he was unaware the target depicted Litvinenko, who died of radiation poisoning after eating at a sushi restaurant. The former spy was an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and from his deathbed accused the leader of pulling the strings in a plot to kill him. “The fact that it was Litvinenko, we only found out later from the press,” Lysyuk said. “We did not shoot at Litvinenko; we shot at a target.”
Use of the target at the center, which held a competition for Russian special forces, became known this week after Russian media published photographs of Sergei Mironov, head of the Russian parliament’s upper house, visiting the center in early November. His visit, to present awards in a competition for Interior Ministry special forces, came about a week after Litvinenko fell ill; one photo shows the Litvinenko target in the background behind Mironov.
Lysyuk insisted his company does not normally hold such contests and was granting a favor to former Interior Ministry colleagues, whose own training ground was being repaired. Litvinenko, once an agent in the Federal Security Service, the Soviet KGB’s main successor, fled to Britain and was granted asylum after accusing his superiors of ordering him to kill Boris Berezovsky, a Russian tycoon and one-time Kremlin insider who also has been granted British citizenship.
Dmitry Peskov, a senior Kremlin spokesman, said using a person’s face as a shooting range “was ethically incorrect,” but stressed it was that company’s responsibility and insisted government troops were not involved in the exercises. “There is no talk of such shooting ranges being used by Russian special forces or by the Vityaz unit,” Peskov told AP in a telephone interview. “This [company] has no relation to the elite Vityaz troops.”