A highlight from Episode 266: Amy Knight on Putins Russia

Newt's World


As a soviet slash russian affairs analyst. This will be my six book. I've always followed everything it's been going on in the kremlin and in russia and i also of course have been most drawn to the democratic opposition movement and that first murder that i talk about my book of galena staravoitova who is a parliamentarian in russia. She was shot in her and turns in nineteen ninety eight and i had met galina and she was with the us institute of peace for a year in washington and i really admired her so much and it just struck me that there was something going on that that people weren't aware of and at that point lead him or putin was the head of the f. b. and very closely connected with saint petersburg. I didn't particularly attributed to putin but it was a very strange murder and it never really has been solved properly. You intrigued with the way in which the russians police themselves. Yes i have always had a specialty in the security services. I'd written a book on the kgb. And i was always following what these officials were doing. And then that combined with my interest in in critics journalists and politicians led me to follow every time there was a murder. I was wondering what happened. And of course the russian independent media has always been very good since the soviet collapse so that combined with interviews enabled me to kind of follow these different cases just as an aside. I noticed one of the books you wrote was on berea stalin's head of the kgb. Who is himself. Sort of a remarkable case. Study in brutality. Yes he is very much. So i should mention that i also was a historian of stalin period and it just struck me that no one had ever really investigated the history of liver. Nc beria who was stolen tension kind of from the get-go and who is a key administrator of the famous purges in the thirties. So i decided. I would write about biography of him and this i should add was prompted by the fact that soviet opened up in the nineties for a while and one could really find out a great deal about barrier installing. And i also went to georgia to to belize and worked. There did a little research there. So yeah that was my first book and i think that just continued my interest in the security services at the more sinister aspect of how russia is ruled picking berries starting point. It must have been a very eye opening at times to be in the archives and realize in a mundane way how routine this was. This was just the way they did things. Yes you're absolutely right. it did become a routine. But towards the end of stalin's life beria and molotov and malakoff and khrushchev didn't particularly appreciate stalin's bloodthirsty nece and. They were actually. I think quite pleased when he died. And what followed was sort of soviet version of the liberalisation and they stopped the killings. They settled their scores in different ways. Part of the way. They stopped the killings as they killed barrier so getting rid of the second of the great murderers the day. Stalin died yes. Of course moore's of the death of the death of style and the british film. Yes it's excellent and i would say quite accurate. I love the fact that it was able to make it almost humorous not. Everybody caught it. But i laughed. I'm now washington. I think three times. Because i thought it was done briliantly to communicate a level of horror which was more horrifying for being funny. Exactly have they done it purely straight. It would have been deadening by doing it the way they did. You really got a sense of just how terrifying the regime was exactly. And i should add by the way that although you know berry is always sort of the poster person for all of stalin's terror and violence all of these men contributed to it and went along with it until they worried that it was finally going to them. You know it's fascinating. realize it. In the twenties and thirties mao zedong and dan xiaoping and others studied stalin and lenin as role models and in fact stalin's refinisher. The bolshevik revolution was a major work. That both deng xiaoping in mosey dung relied on and it's a work which teaches the virtue of persians that if you maintain constant turmoil in the party by every few years having a purge and i think it's part of what explains what happened with mao in the fifties and sixties the way he was almost going off the rails the way stalin head after world war. Two right exactly. This was timed and true methods for keeping the population in subjugation. It's striking how often the russians both the soviets now the current regime are willing to be a little sloppy and open and who they're killing. I think because they want to send a signal. I think that they actually think it's to their advantage to. Have you know what they are doing. But what's your take on that. I'm in agreement with you. I have just been writing a postscript to my latest book. Because it's coming out in paperback in britain and i'm including a postscript about the screwball poisonings in the uk in march of two thousand and eighteen. And we now know that they were gru officers who actually put the poison novi truck which is a nerve agent on the doorknob of sergei skripal. They were sloppy. They allowed themselves to be photographed on the tv recorded on the cameras. Walking around the streets of salisbury scrape. I lived and they left a perfume type bottle with the rest of the novi chuck in a trash can which was later picked up by two innocent people to brits their true names were eventually uncovered and so we now pretty much have a smoking. Gun that the kremlin was directly involved with this. And i don't think the kremlin particularly cares because people have talked about. What would be the motive of mr putin to have such a crime carried out in the uk surely knew that it was going to cause a huge shock wave in the west and sanctions and diplomats being kicked out but putin is not as maybe as rational as we assume he is and i think he and his colleagues really wanted to send a message to would-be defectors that this could happen to them. If they turn to the west. And also i think it reinforces for putin this image of him being a strong man who can stand up to the west and you know the russian public when leaping inca was poisoned in britain in two thousand and six again the killers were found to. They've got themselves back to russia. They weren't extradited and they did. Polls what the russian people thought about this murder and most of them felt that lifting and co deserved it. I haven't seen any polls about scruple. But i think putin was playing to an audience and so i don't think it really matters all that. Much to the kremlin whether or not we know that they were the ones that orchestrated these recent poisonings in britain. So you mentioned that these agents which have remember correctly is the military intelligence unit right. It's the military intelligence branch of the ministry of defence. And it's very interesting because in earlier days it was always the kgb and the kgb's successors now we have the fsba the federal security service. They were the ones along with foreign intelligence agency. That would do these things abroad. And it wasn't the g. You also didn't do bad things. But it was more under the purview of foreign intelligence in the fsb and now it seems like the gru is carrying out more of these acts of violence and also as we know now the election interference because it was the gru. That's was responsible for a lot of the hacking

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