Following the recent attempted assassination of a former Russian spy named Sergei Skripal on UK soil, Prime Minister Theresa May has called for the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats from the nation and the freezing of Russian assets held on UK soil. Skripal and his daughter appear to have been the victims of a particularly nasty nerve agent designed by the Soviet Union and housed nowhere else known on the planet.
That, combined with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statements following Skripal’s release, would seem to tie the Russian government directly to the incident, a seemingly bold move from the Russian state. With 22 others, including a police officer that first aided Skripal and his daughter, forced to undergo treatment following exposure to the Russian nerve agent known as Novichok, one would think this type of international incident must have been a miscalculation by Russian officials, or perhaps even a botched operation … but when you begin to delve into the history of Russia’s use of high-profile assassinations as a means to “set an example,” this month’s lethal circus in Salisbury, England almost starts to look like business as usual for the largest nation on earth.
In the past century, the ruling regime in Russia or the former Soviet Union have been tied to at least 33 successful assassinations, with nearly a full third of those taking place after Vladimir Putin rose to power in 1999. Even these figures, however, are misleadingly low, as they don’t take into account assassinations that were never tied directly to the Kremlin, nor does it include failed attempts, such as it appears the recent incident in the UK will be.
Alexander Litvinenko, who was perhaps the most high-profile of the Putin-era assassinations, was also killed in the UK via an exotic and telling form of poison: a highly radioactive isotope called radioactive polonium-210.