When Russian President Vladimir Putin knelt on the pavement in Moscow’s Red Square to kiss the tummy of five-year-old Nikita Konkin in 2006, the encounter led to a bizarre twist of events.
“I wasn’t ticklish at all,” said the boy who claims that he felt so proud that he didn’t wash his stomache afterwards. “I felt something good.”
For some, the image was just an awkward publicity stunt, however it led to deceased Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko accusing Putin of pedophilia. The kiss followed by the claims could have triggered the series of events that made Putin allegedly sign Litivenko’s death warrant.
Ten years on, Konkin still remembers the kiss he received during the day trip with his Kolomensk kindgergarten. His grandmother Valentina had pushed him forward to the front of the crowded boys under the nose of the president.
Putin walked between his bodyguards and waved his hand to the boy, beckoning him to come. The kiss surprised the boy who idolized Putin, wanting to be the president himself.
Putin himself said that the boy was cute and he wanted to stroke him like a kitten. The kiss on the tummy was just a spontaneous gesture. “There is nothing behind it,” he had said when asked about what led him to peck on the stomach of an unfamiliar little boy. “He seemed to me very independent, sure of himself and at the same time defenceless so to speak, an innocent boy and a very nice little boy.”
Months after the picture drew global attention back in 2006, Litvinenko wrote a blog alleging that president Putin was filmed abusing children in the same flat where another top politician had a threesome with prostitutes. Putin was described as a pedophile and Litivenko said that there were videos of him having sex with underage boys. Putin was accused of destroying the footage that allegedly saw him sent away from Russia for a while when he was a student after becoming head of the FSB secret service.
Litvinenko wrote: “The world public is shocked. Nobody can understand why the Russian president did such a strange thing as kissing the stomach of an unfamiliar small boy.” The blog post was just the latest straw in the exiled Russian’s criticism of the Kremlin.
Soon after the claims were made, on November 1 of the same year, Litvinenko met with former KGB agents Dmitry Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoy at a hotel in central London for tea laced with radioactive polonium. That night, the exiled Russian spent the evening vomiting and it took him three weeks to die. To the end, he said that Putin was the man that ordered his death.
As for the boy, he made up his mind to be president. He rehearsed political speeches and refused to wash his stomach in the area kissed by Putin. But was it the kiss of death?