The number of prominent political figures, journalists, and dissidents murdered in Vladimir Putin’s Russia raises a fundamental question: Have these crimes occurred, Knight asks, because Putin has “created an environment for the violence but may not be personally involved?” Or do “the political motives of the Putin government that hover over the killings and the vast amount of circumstantial evidence” suggest Putin’s direct participation? She comes down squarely on the side of the more sinister explanation. The book is a detailed examination of the most dramatic cases, beginning with the 1998 murder of Galina Starovoitova, a charismatic liberal politician, and including a multitude of others, among them the killings of the former intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko and the opposition politician Boris Nemtsov. In each case, she details the events leading up to the murder, lays out the evidence, and describes the subsequent arrests and trials. And in each case, neither Knight nor those close to the victim are satisfied with the verdict. As she recognizes, the evidence, with the partial exception of the Litvinenko case, is largely circumstantial. But the book’s value is that Knight supplies enough of it for readers to decide for themselves.
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