NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t

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FRESH AIR: In 2006, as Russia was preparing to host the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg, its parliament passed a law legalizing extrajudicial killings of accused “extremists” abroad. “It was an extraordinary moment,” BuzzFeed News journalist Heidi Blake says. “Even as Western leaders were sitting around the table with Putin in St. Petersburg, at that very moment, laws were being passed … that enabled enemies of the Russian state to be murdered by Russian state agents on foreign soil with absolute impunity.”

Blake maintains that Russia subsequently engaged in an assassination program that targeted exiled Russian oligarchs, security officials and others critical of the Kremlin. “We could see there was a pattern of suspicious deaths linked to Russia,” Blake says. “And in every single case there was evidence that would appear to connect those deaths to Russia.”

Blake and her BuzzFeed News team were finalists in 2017 for their investigation of Russian assassinations on British soil. Her new book based on that reporting, From Russia with Blood, chronicles 14 suspected assassinations in the U.K., including the death by poisoning of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, a defector who had been critical of the law allowing extrajudicial killings. “Litvinenko was trying to warn publicly that this [law] would mean that Russian defectors living in Britain would be at risk — and it was only months later that he himself was assassinated,” Blake says. MORE