‘Ukraine sanctions could increase Kremlin-backed killings in London’

Martin Bentham
Evening Standard | 30 June 2014

London business chiefs have been warned that the capital is at risk from an “upsurge” in assassinations by Russian intelligence services if the Government tightens the sanctions imposed over the Ukrainian conflict.

Mark Galeotti, who works in Moscow as a professor of global affairs for New York University, said the capital had been largely “immune” from Kremlin-backed attacks because prominent Moscow figures enjoyed living and investing here.

But he told London First, which represents City firms and other leading businesses, that the situation could change if economic sanctions undermined the city’s attractions for the Russian elite.

At a briefing on the potential impact of the crisis in Ukraine, he warned that the Kremlin was “increasingly willing” to use violence to deal with opponents.He said Russian agents, accused by Britain of killing dissident Alexander Litvinenko by poisoning him in London, had carried out recent assassinations in Turkey and Austria.

He warned of the danger of action against “political and lobby groupings” in the capital that supported the Ukrainian cause, which include some “very outspoken Ukrainian people”.

Mr Galeotti said: “There is the potential for more direct operations by Russian intelligence services.

“Litvinenko we all know about. More recently fundraisers for Chechen and North Caucasus groups have been assassinated in Turkey and Austria.

“This is a country which is not only willing to use violence abroad, it is increasingly willing to use violence abroad. There is a definite upsurge.”

He told the meeting, attended by the head of Scotland Yard’s homicide command as well as senior business figures from the City,  that London had previously been a place where Moscow avoided “wet work” — Russian slang for assassinations.

Mr Galeotti  said this was because London was seen as a place for the Russian elite to “send money… kids to private school” and to “have a nice expensive apartment”.

But he added: “If sanctions begin to bite, if London becomes a less hospitable environment for Russian money, for Russian moneyed people and for Russian gangsters, albeit of the white collar variety, then London begins to lose its immunity.

“It’s precisely London’s accessibility which has made it safer.”



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