The attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury has stunned the world. We shouldn’t really be surprised. In 2006 Alexander Litvinenko was murdered in London by drinking tea laced with the highly radioactive substance polonium-210. He had just accused the Putin regime of the murder by poisoning of the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. In fact, there are about 14 unexplained deaths in the UK in recent years all of whom had connections to Russia. The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee has asked for investigations into these deaths to be reopened.
I have been campaigning for some time to see what has become known as the Magnitsky Law introduced in the UK. This law is named after a Russian lawyer who was investigating a tax fraud by cronies of President Putin. He was arrested, tortured and murdered in a Russian prison. The law allows a state to name individuals who, like those who caused the murder of Sergei Magnitsky, are guilty of gross human rights violations or corruption. By listing them, they are prevented from coming to a country like Britain, banking here, doing business here or buying property here. As there is a weak economy in Russia, all that crooks and corrupt politicians want to do with their ill-gotten gains is to invest in economies like ours which are safe and where their money can grow in value. The Prime Minister came to the House of Commons on Wednesday and said that as part of the response to the shocking attack in Salisbury, the Government will introduce a Magnitsky amendment to the Sanctions and Money Laundering Bill currently going through Parliament. This pleased me because if it hadn’t I would have proposed such an amendment when the Bill comes up for debate next month.
There is much speculation about the motives for the Salisbury attacks and other unexplained deaths. What we do know is that Russia is a kleptocracy on a scale that dwarfs the corruption we have seen in other parts of the world. We have much to admire in the Russian people and we mean them no ill-will. What we cannot stand is the arrogance of their regime that believes it can kill its enemies around the world with impunity and in doing so put many innocent lives at risk.