It reads like right out of a John LeCarre spy novel, but in plain point of fact, it’s real.
According to a mole deep inside Russia’s FSB intelligence service, Russian President Vladimir Putin has drawn up a new “kill list of opponents,” including six targets living in Britain, media outlets in the UK reported.
The source is the same one who allegedly warned Salisbury Novichok victim Sergei Skripal he was marked for assassination before the city went into shutdown in 2018, Euro Weekly News reported.
At the same time, the Russian leader released photos of himself and Defense Minister, Sergei Shoygu, as they enjoyed an idyllic holiday hike and picnic in remote Siberia, marking the seventh anniversary of the Crimea annexation.
The DailyMirror reports that the UK is now on the brink of a deadly post-pandemic assassination campaign from the Russian leader as he embarks on removing all his rivals in one large, SMERSH-like deadly sweep.
In a letter to one target, the spy says: “They are out to shut you up completely. Take the precaution of quickly changing your place of residence, even if only temporarily.”
According to the source, Putin has told his enemies that “long arms” will reach them as they have nowhere to hide.
The mole, who resorts to very complex technology to avoid detection, is allegedly working undetected in the FSB, which is Russia’s equivalent of the UK’s MI5 or America’s CIA.
Regarding two other targets, the FSB source said: “As for (Vladimir) Chichvarkin and (Yevgeny) Ashurkov there is a plan to poison them with a substance similar to that used with the Skripals.”
The two Russian exiles and opponents of Putin fled to England, where they have been followed by Russian agents ever since.
Russia now has more intelligence agents deployed in London than at the height of the Cold War, former British intelligence officials told The New York Times.
They serve a variety of functions, including building contacts among British politicians.
But the most important task is to keep an eye on the hundreds of heavyweight Russians — those aligned with Putin, and those arrayed against him — who have built lives in Britain, attracted by its property market and banking system.
“You can’t do much about it,” Ashurkov told the New York Times. “Even after you escape from Moscow to London, you know they have long hands.”
The spy added that the SVR – Russia’s overseas intelligence service, known as “the Forest” — is tasked with eliminating Mikhail Khodorkovsky, The Mirror reported.
The source said: “A Forest plan exists to try to abduct him by injecting a special substance to knock him out.”
And the message says the orders came directly from President Putin with the words: “We have long arms. No scum can hide from us.”
There is also a warning that Russian special ops teams are gathering in Ireland ready to cross into Britain.
The alert comes after Russia was identified by PM Boris Johnson in last week’s defence review as the UK’s “most acute threat.”
One source said Putin is acting to once and for all shut down support for opposition leader Alexei Navalny, 44, who was last month sentenced to two-and-a-half years in a penal colony.
A 2014 suspended sentence for embezzlement was turned into an actual prison term of two and a half years after he returned from Germany, where he had received medical treatment for nerve agent poisoning.
Among those on the list in the UK: Investment banker Vladimir Ashurkov, former oilfield billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky, mobile phone tycoon Evgeny Chichvarkin, former FSB agent Boris Karpichkov, American Bill Browder, a staunch Putin critic, and former Mi6 agent Chris Steele, whose controversial Trump dossier made him a household name.
Meanwhile, Chechnyan exiles are apparently being hunted down across Europe by death squads aided by the Russian leader’s security services.
For more than a month, Mahran Abdulayev has been sitting in his three-bedroom flat in a small town in Austria, waiting for the assassins.
His five children leave the house only to go to school and his wife makes only an occasional dash to the shops, running straight home and bolting the door.
They have reason to fear the worst.
Abdulayev — whose name has been changed to protect his identity — found out last year that he was on Russian security services kill list, a “dark dossier” that has been leaked to European intelligence agencies.
It was reported that four on the list have already been terminated.
The mole has warned of “wet ops” by the Kontora – spy slang for the FSB – being planned over the next two months. And the source adds: “As for sanctions by the West, the Kontora frankly does not care.”
It should be noted, assassination squads are nothing new in Russia.
In 1942, the military intelligence section of the Red Army set up a new unit to investigate traitors and deserters, liquidate enemy agents and enforce ideological conformity by destroying “anti-Soviet elements,” New York Times reported.
The structure of the wartime espionage unit was deliberately opaque. It is still unclear quite how it was organized and how many officers it deployed.
But the purpose was only too apparent in its name, coined by Stalin himself, which merged the Russian words smert meaning death and shpionam meaning spies: hence “Death to Spies,” or SMERSH.
Made famous in Ian Fleming spy novels, Stalin would later change the name to the Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, the name it is still known by today.
In another provocative move, the Russian President appeared on stage Thursday during a concert marking the seventh anniversary of Crimea annexation, despite strong condemnation of the “occupation” by the G7, The Daily Mail reported.
President Putin released new photos of himself wearing sheep skin jackets during a holiday in Siberia as he drives an all-terrain vehicle and crossing a shaky suspension footbridge over a frozen river.
Then he joined Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, a native of the mountainous Tuva region of Siberia, for a picnic in the wilderness, with empty vodka glasses on the table and animal skins to warm the seats.
Putin often spends his days off in Russia’s remote regions and Tuva is considered among the president’s favorite spots.
After the pair enjoyed a hike and some animal watching, Putin and Shoygu enjoyed tea in the woods (the president does not drink alcohol), drinking out of thermal cups, snacking on tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, pork fat and sausages.
Russian journalists were also curious to know if Putin took his nuclear briefcase (the equivalent of the American “football”) along with him to the Siberian wilderness, to which the press secretary responded: “Every necessary means of communication, including the strategic kind, are always with the president, whether in Russia or any other part of the world.”
And by the way, the “Dozhd” TV channel found similar outfits on the St. Petersburg-based ‘Мастерской кожи и меха’ website that are custom-made in Siberia and costing 70,000 rubles (US$940).
Sources: Euro Weekly News, The Daily Mirror, The New York Times, The Daily Mail, DozhdTV, CIA Factbook