Vladimir Putin’s bloody war against his critics finally made it to Washington last week, when KGB expert Paul Joyal was shot outside his Prince George’s County house — four days after NBC Dateline broadcast Joyal’s accusation that Putin ordered the radioactive poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko.
Joyal had just returned home from a meeting with an ex-KGB general “at a restaurant next to the International Spy Museum in downtown Washington,” the International Herald Tribune helpfully notes, when he was shot in the groin.
Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, and the rest is after the jump.
(Thrice is “enemy action,” by the way.)
On Dateline, Joyal gave this assessment of the Kremlin’s special way of handling critics and journalists:
“A message has been communicated to anyone who wants to speak out against the Kremlin: ‘If you do, no matter who you are, where you are, we will find you, and we will silence you — in the most horrible way possible.’”
There is definitely some bad luck going around the anti-Putin movement. Right about the time Juyal was shot in the nuts, Russian journalist Ivan Safronov mysteriously fell to his death from a fifth-floor apartment window; Safronov was working on a story about Russia selling arms to Iran and Syria.
It has become a very dangerous business to question, criticize or investigate Putin’s regime. In the past decade, 88 journalists were killed in Russia. Over the same 10-year-period (including the American invasion and occupation), 136 journalists have been killed in Iraq.
Besides the bizarre poisoning of Litvinenko with Polonium 210, recent hits on reporters and Putin critics include the brazen daylight assassination of one of Russia’s best-known journalists, Anna Politkovskaya.
American-born Paul Klebnikov was an editor at Forbes magazine. He was shot nine times outside his office in Moscow in 2004 and died at a hospital.
And two American women are now in the hospital in Moscow, having been poisoned with the colorless, odorless and highly radioactive poison Thallium, AP reported this afternoon.
Criticize the Kremlin these days, and the same thing is likely to happen to you … even in Washington.
Obviously, the FBI sees nothing suspicious about Joyal’s shooting:
The federal authorities were leaning toward the view that Joyal was the victim of a street crime unrelated to his opinions of Russia, said a federal law enforcement official. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is incomplete, said the crime scene did not point toward professional assassins.
And despite false reports planted in Washington media that Joyal had been robbed of his wallet and briefcase, his wife Elizabeth told the AP he wasn’t robbed. Who planted the fake robbery stories? “Law enforcement officials speaking on the condition of anonymity,” according to AP.
Elizabeth Joyal called her husband’s ex-KGB friend immediately after the shooting. Oleg Kalugin described a “panicked call” from his friend’s wife. “She called me and said, ‘Oleg, Paul is shot, I want to warn you.’”
Prince George’s County police told reporters there was “a vague description of two black males” at the scene. Nobody is saying who provided that alleged witness report; cops have no suspects.
Both Joyal and Kalugin have worked as U.S. government consultants. Joyal, who is recovering from the shooting, edited insider newsletters on Russian business, has been a lobbyist for the Georgian Embassy in Washington and has testified before Congress on various Russia-related topics.
Which Putin critic will be shot in DC next?