There is a slightly tasteless element of relish in some of the reporting of the attempted murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London. News editors like nothing more than a foreign news item which sounds like a film plot – and the poisoning of a former Russian agent turned dissident certainly fits the bill. As a result some of the newspaper stories have introductions which read like pulp fiction.
Most commentators assume that – directly or indirectly – the Kremlin had a hand in the poisoning, although there is no direct evidence to support this. Edward Lucas puts the case for the prosecution eloquently. By contrast Mary Dejevsky in The Independent argues for a verdict of “not proven”. Note, incidentally, that both commentators cannot resist starting their articles with a reference to James Bond.
It seems unlikely that anyone will ever find a smoking test-tube proving the direct involvement of Vladimir Putin. But what is increasingly clear is that several people who have got under the Russian leader’s skin have, in fact, been poisoned by somebody.