Josef Stalin was reported to have said, "Death solves all problems. No man, no problem." The record shows that this philosophy worked very well for him. At least for a while.
It would appear that Vladimir Putin has taken a page from the Joe Stalin playbook with the sudden, convenient deaths of his various critics, most recently, Alexander Litvinenko by radiation poisoning.
When this story first hit the news, my initial reaction was probably just what Putin expected the world to think: This crap just doesn't happen any more. I now suspect otherwise.
Litvinenko was in London investigating the assassination of Anna Politkovskaya, murdered last month in her apartment building in central Moscow. Politkovskaya was a Russian journalist critical of Putin and the Kremlin who was about to file a news story on the brutality of Chechen authorities who are loyal to Putin and the Kremlin. Her computer's hard drive and other material for the story were taken by Russian police. The story will probably never be published.
Litvinenko himself was writing a book about the practices of the FSB (a KGB successor organization) in the state of Chechnya, including alleged concentration camps.
There's also the case of Viktor Yushchenko, the Ukrainian presidential candidate who was poisoned with dioxin in September, 2004. Yushchenko survived the the poisoning, and ultimately won the election. Yushchenko was opposed by the Kremlin due to his pro-west leanings.
I was still on active duty when the Soviet Union imploded, and everyone was talking about the "peace dividend" and singing Kumbaya. A crusty old NCO said to me (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Whatever replaces the commies will be just as bad as the commies. Don't ever trust 'em." Crusty old NCOs can be pretty smart.