It was 45 years ago as he was waiting for a bus on London’s Waterloo Bridge when Georgi Markov felt a pain in his right thigh. He saw a man pick up a dropped umbrella, apologize, and leave the scene. That evening, Markov developed a high temperature and made his way to St. James Hospital where he died within days on September 11, 1978. During the subsequent autopsy, they extracted from his right hip a small pellet capable of containing poison. Scotland Yard opened an investigation and at the coroner’s inquest four months later, it was determined that Markov had been murdered with a toxic poison. The poison was Ricin.
Markov was a writer, a dissident in his home county of Bulgaria. He left Bulgaria in 1971 and resettled in the UK where he dedicated much of his time highlighting the activities of the communist regime in Bulgaria and throughout the Soviet Bloc. He appeared frequently on the BBC, Deutsche Welle, and Radio Free Europe. He had received a call in mid-1978 advising him to stop writing for Radio Free Europe or he would be executed.
The assassination was the third attempt to kill Markov, the other two having taken place in Munich and Sardinia. Two former KGB officers who now live in the west (Oleg Kalugin and Oleg Gordievsky) have noted publicly that the Soviet Union was behind the assassination.
Bulgaria honored Markov in December 2000 when the country awarded him the Order of Stara Planina, in honor of his contribution to Bulgarian literature.
The assassin has never been identified.
Three weeks after having consumed poisoned tea at the Millennium Hotel in the company of two Russians, Alexander Litvinenko died having been exposed to polonium-210 a rare, and potent radioactive isotope. Litvinenko a former FSB officer, had been granted British citizenship and had very publicly accused Putin of corruption. He would go on to be hired by MI-6 as an expert on Russian organized crime.
During the three weeks in hospital, Litvinenko helped British authorities solve what would turn out to be his own murder, to include providing the identities of his murderers.
On March 04, 2018, former GRU intelligence officer Sergei Skripal (who had attained British citizenship) and his daughter were exposed to the highly toxic chemical Novichok, at Skripal’s Salisbury, England residence. While the Skripal’s did not die, a British citizen who was also exposed to the chemical did.
Skripal, like Markov had been forewarned. It was widely reported that in 2010 when Skripal was allowed to leave Russia as part of a spy swap which returned the 10 illegals arrested in the United States, that Putin was to have said, Skripal “will kick the bucket.”
The GRU officers who attempted to kill Skripal have been identified and international warrants for their arrests have been issued.
When dissent is kryptonite
Many others who have voice dissent have died at the hands of the Russian apparatus, Anna Politkovskaya a human rights activist for example. Then we have the more recent and highly visible assassination of Yevgeny Prigozhin, once Putin’s fair-hair compatriot, whose Wagner mercenary forces had provided Putin with his para-military muscle.
Those in the seat of power demonstrate they have a but a tenuous grip on levers of government when dissent is their kryptonite. The tactic taken to squelch dissenting opinions, permanently using their national intelligence apparatus in the conduct of assassinations, aka wet operations, is the Russian preferred method.
May the voices of dissent continue to be heard.