In many ways it all began with the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko.
Not that Vladimir Putin’s Russia was exactly a model global citizen before the November 2006 killing of the former KGB spy who defected to Great Britain. But when Litvinenko was lethally poisoned after drinking tea laced with polonium in a London hotel in November 2006, it heralded Russia’s transformation from being a mere international pain to being a full-blown outlaw state.
An official British investigation into the incident has now concluded that former KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoi and his accomplice Dmitry Kovtun killed Litvinenko, most likely with Putin’s approval. (Both men have denied the charges.) And that was the moment when Russia fully went rogue. It was the point where the Kremlin stopped even pretending to play by international rules. It was the point where Moscow’s gangster state truly went international.
In fact, at the time he was killed, Litvinenko was preparing to testify in a Spanish investigation into ties between Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and Russian organized-crime groups operating in Europe. And after Putin’s agents allegedly whacked a British citizen on British soil and got away with it, Russia started breaking bad.