Joshua Foust, who usually blogs at Registan.net, has a book review (posted a few days back) of former GRU General Boris Volodarsky’s history of Russia’s use of poisons for assassinations published at Oil and the Glory.
And what a poison it is: The particular hallmark of Russian poisons, besides their creativity, seems to be their relatively long kill time. A victim will languish for weeks, even months, in sheer agony before either barely surviving or dying. Volodarsky describes this tradition while tracing Soviet and Russian poisoneers (for lack of a better term) through early uses of merely unusual plant extracts to the industrial development of unique compounds. The resulting potions are engineered specifically to mimic other problems, usually some form of gastritis, so that by the time doctors eventually realize what’s happened, it’s too late to fix.
The inspiration for Volodarsky’s history is the death of Alexander Litvinenko, the KGB defector slowly poisoned with Polonium-210 in 2006. While it can be difficult to parse the complicated history that Volodarsky writes — this is a book by and for insiders — the picture that emerges is damning of Russia going back decades. This might be where the book would fit in the pantheon of anti-Russia books: Volodarsky argues that the post-USSR poisoning activities of Russian intelligence demonstrate a strong continuity between Soviet and Russian activities.