>Headlining Russia’s poisoned democracy

> As the unfortunate Alexander Litvinenko fights for his life a few streets away at University College Hospital, it’s interesting to note how his attempted assassination has also finally poisoned the British media’s view of Vladimir Putin . The vocabulary is an entirely Cold War one of ‘defectors’, ‘dissidents’ and the KGB. The assumption, reasonably accurately, is that Russia is an authoritarian state, not some rather rough and ready new capitalist democracy suffering from too much freedom. Political scientists and NGOs have tended to classify Russia as ‘semi-authoritarian’, an ‘illiberal democracy’ or ‘semi-free’, as authoritarian ends are used by democratic forms and a form of ultra-manipulative stage managed politics that my SSEES colleague Andy Wilson has explored in his eye opening book Virtual Politics. Ironically, informed academic observers of Russian politics, seem to have a low opinion of Litvinenko and the Boris Berezovsky, whose London based network he forms part of, seeing the ex-oligarch and ex-FSB officer as part of the problems, rather than part of the solution. Neither has the moral integrity or political credibility of the late Anna Politovskaya.

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