The Litvinenko Affair gets more complicated. The Guardian is reporting via the Associated Press reports that London doctors are now saying that “thallium poisoning is an unlikely cause of [Litvinenko’s] current condition.” Well, isn’t that interesting. The entire article reads:
Doubts over cause of spy’s illness
Tuesday November 21, 2006 [5:58] PM
The illness of the Russian former security agent Alexander Litvinenko is unlikely to have been caused by thallium poisoning, the hospital doctors treating him have said.
Dr Amit Nathwani, the consultant caring for Mr Litvinenko at University College Hospital in London said further tests would be conducted to establish the cause of his condition.
The latest twist in the extraordinary Cold War-style saga came after a leading toxicologist claimed that Mr Litvinenko could have been poisoned with “radioactive thallium”.
In a statement, the hospital trust said: “Mr Litvinenko is being treated in the intensive care unit of University College Hospital so he can receive cardiac monitoring and specialist support in areas such as nutrition and pain relief.
“He can also be more effectively isolated to protect him against infection, following the damage to his immune system.
“We have requested toxicology tests to establish what poisoned Mr Litvinenko. Based on results we have received today and Mr Litvinenko’s clinical features, thallium poisoning is an unlikely cause of his current condition.
“Further tests will be carried out to establish whether or not there is a single cause for Mr Litvinenko’s condition.”
© Copyright Press Association Ltd 2006, All Rights Reserved.
The question now becomes: What was the original source that said that Litvinenko was poisoned? And why was almost every news organ reporting the case (this blog included) was so willing to accept it without skepticism? More on this later . . .
Special thanks to F. Kriukov for alerting me to this story.
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There is a strange story brewing over at Kommersant. On Tuesday the business daily received a letter from the Russian government’s media watchdog agency, Rossvyazokhrankultura, concerning an interview the paper published with Ahmed Zakayev. For those not familiar with Zakayev, he is the representative of the Chechen independence movement in London, where he recieved political asylum in 2002. At issue are the transcripts Kommersant published of the deposition Zakayev gave to Russian investigators on 30 March. Rossvyazokhrankultura “believes that the publication of this material may fall under the purview of Article 161 of the Russian Criminal Code (‘The Impermissibility of Disclosing Information from Preliminary Investigations’), in consequence of which a corresponding enquiry has been sent to the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office.”
The possible legal violation only concerns the publication of this material on the web. Kommersant editor Pavel Chernikov said that the the tone of the letter was “polite and undemanding” and this led him to speculate that “It is as though the agency has its doubts – in the opinion of officials, the publication [of the material] ‘may fall’ under the purview of the article from the Criminal Code, meaning that it also might not.”
The question around the publishing Zakayev’s deposition is whether the Chechen leader is a participant in a criminal case. Article 161 of the Russian Criminal code forbids the publication of materials dealing with ongoing criminal investigations. To Kommersant’s knowledge, Zakayev is not part of a criminal investigation and as far as they knew the deposition in question was considered an voluntary “interview” and not an interrogation.
The government letter to Kommersant comes on the heels of increasing tensions between the Russians and the British over the extradition of Andrei Lugovoi. The Russian government officially rejected a request to extradite Lugovoi to London for trial for Alexsandr Litvinenko’s murder. Britain seems prepared to take a tough stand despite Russia’s unwillingness to compromise. It is even considering expelling low level Russia diplomats as a way to put pressure.
Tensions between the two governments are only a small part of the weirdness that continues to hover over the “Litvinenko Affair.” Even stranger is the sudden appearance of Vyacheslav Zharko. In a series of interviews in Izvestiia, Moskovsky komsomolets, Russia Today, and featured on the NTV program Incident Investigation, Zharko claimed to have been recruited as a paid informant by MI6 with the help of Litvinenko. According to Kommersant,
Vyacheslav Zharko announced to TV watchers and newspaper readers that he had been recruited by MI6 with Alexander Litvinenko’s help 5 years ago. Zharko said that after Andrei Lugovoi’s press conference on May 31, 2007, MI6 officers and Boris Berezovsky began calling him “on a secret phone” and “insistently inviting” him abroad. Zharko became afraid for his life, and went to give himself up to the FSB. Zharko claims he was supplying information from the Internet to the British intelligence, passing it off as confidential. MI6 was paying him ?2,000 per month for the information. The most sensational detail is Zharko’s story about the trip to Istanbul in August 2005 together with Litvinenko. There he saw Litvinenko meet with people of undefined appearance (Zharko said to NTV it was people from the Caucasus, to MK – people “of Arab appearance”, and to Izvestia – those “who looked like our people from the Caucasus”, who suddenly turn into “Arabs” again by the end of the interview). According to Zharko, those people gave Litvinenko a certain “jar” (NTV, MK), or a “metallic thing like a container” (Izvestia), after which Litvinenko allegedly said with satisfaction: “Putin will soon be done for”. Zharko implied that Litvinenko received his death from that jar.
This, of course, was a dream come true for those who have taken Lugovoi’s statements that Litvinenko was an MI6 agent as evidence that the murder was part of a Berezovsky backed Western conspiracy against Putin’s government.
At this point, all I can say is who the hell knows what is going on.
It didn’t take long for someone to benefit from charging Andrei Lugovoi for Litvinenko’s murder. The documentary Rebellion: The Litvinenko Case is slated to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival this Saturday. According to the film’s director, Andrei Nekrasov, who is also a friend of Litvinenko, the documentary will “give audiences an insight into the minds of those who killed him.” “It’s for the police and prosecutors where the trail of polonium leads,” he told the Associated Press. “What is important is to understand the motives and the context.”
Nekrasov says that arrangements to have the film premiere at Cannes were decided three weeks ago. For some reasons the festival’s organizers kept the news from the public. I can’t say the reason was political pressure,” Mr. Nekrasov said. “They do this sort of surprise screening sometimes.” Variety states that “the festival got its hands the documentary just days before this year’s event got under way, hence organizers decision to announce it mid fest.”
Well I don’t know if I would call it “political pressure.” It’s more like opportunism. Litvinenko has been out of the news for months and yesterday’s revelation is a perfect opportunity for Cannes to capitalize on. Be sure Rebellion can expect a packed theater. Nekrasov, his co-director Olga Konskaya, and Litvinenko’s widow Marina are expected to attend the screening.
As to what viewers should expect from the film. Nekrasov says that
the film would give audiences an insight into the minds of those who killed him. “It’s for the police and prosecutors where the trail of polonium leads,” he said. “What is important is to understand the motives and the context.”
The film draws on footage of Mr. Litvinenko shot over four years, as well as interviews with his widow, Marina, and others. “I’m not treating him uncritically,” Mr. Nekrasov said. “You know, I think people will be walking out with a very clear idea where my personal sympathies are, but I am trying to be objective — but also emotional. I wanted to make a documentary which goes beyond information, and which looks deeper into people’s motives — without which we will never understand why he was killed.”
It should come as no surprise that the film implicates Putin in Litvinenko’s murder. I guess that means more shots of Litvinenko as cancer kid. Damn.
In other Litvinenko news, oligarch-in-exile, Boris Berezovsky went on the BBC and pointed his finger, yet again, at Putin.
“It is impossible to produce polonium without state support and impossible to transport polonium … without state support,” he said.
“It can’t have happened without his (Putin’s) personal involvement and that’s exactly what Alexander (Litvinenko) told me in the hospital.”
‘Because of that, Lugovoy will never be extradited to London, and on the other hand I think Lugovoy’s life is in danger, because it is an absolutely typical KGB way to solve the problem, to kill the witness of the crime,’ said Berezovsky, who gave the interview during a visit to Israel.
For some reason this song sounds familiar. Anyway, it just might be possible to obtain and transport polonium without state support when you have the personal income of a small state. I’m surprised the British just don’t hand Berezovsky to the Russians just so he will shut up.
I promise to get on to other topics but with all the drama, which I am an avid sucker for, I feel compelled to continue. I am the moth to the flame.
It appears to be Berezovsky-fest in the Western press. A Google News search reveals hundreds of articles on the alleged assassination plot against BAB. Unfortunately, there few concrete concrete details. RIA Novosti is reporting that British police lacked enough evidence to arrest the would be killer. According to an article published in the Independent, “One reason why the man was not charged was because he was not armed,” the paper said. “Although intelligence had led the security agencies to believe that a plot was being organized against Mr Berezovsky, there was not enough presentable evidence to put before a court, according to security sources.” The man police detained is said to be in his thirties and British intelligence had been tracking him for a week after his arrival in the country. Suspicion heightened when the man attempted to buy a handgun. Police detained him for two days and then handed over to immigration services. He’s since been deported. Nothing more has been said about the alleged kid the assassin was to use as a human shield. Too bad. I thought that was the most compelling part.
My question if there was not enough evidence to charge this man with attempted murder, then what evidence do the British have? Do they even have any?
No one, and I mean no one, is surprised that some powerful people want Berezovsky dead. Even Edward Lucas admits that he “wanted to strangle him.”
Whether the plot was real or not, what it has done is given BAB yet another platform to mouth off. I mean could this guy be even more of a narcissist?
“I am one of the most important witnesses in the Litvinenko murder. They are trying to reach me because I concentrate a group of people who create real opposition, an opposition able to act, and I have enough money to support this opposition.” He then admitted that he’s dumped $300-$400 million into it.
Kommersant claims that in an interview with the French paper Le Figaro, Berezovsky is claiming that he “pioneered Russian capitalism.”
Sure if by Russian capitalism, you mean crony capitalism. Hey BAB, checkity-check yo’self before ya wreckity-wreck yo’self. Is this what Chappelle meant by when keepin’ it real goes bad?
BAB did say in an interview with RFE/RL that he would accept being tried in a third country. “There are actually many countries that fit that description, such as Denmark, Norway, Germany, and one can name at east five or six other such countries in Europe,” he said. One country chomping at the bit is Brazil, whose Public Prosecutor, Rodrigo Di Grandis, issued an arrest warrant yesterday for BAB if he enters Brazil.
In other related news, Russia has expelled four British diplomats and promises to “act reciprocally” on visas in response to the British move. This tit-for-tat reminds me of “I know you are, but what am I . . .” To think that these countries are actually considered world powers.
I must say the repeated statements that “cooler heads will prevail” is getting stale. If they will, will someone please say were the hell are those cool heads gonna come from? Certainly not the US or the EU. US Secretary of State Rice and the EU are just fanning the flames with their categorical statements that Russia cooperate with the British. The EU statement evoked “unpleasant surprise” says Russian Permanent Representative to the EU Vladimir Chizhov. “We would not like the principle of European solidarity to be applied selectively to Russia. That will inevitably harm Russia-EU relations,” he added. This doesn’t bode well for Rice’s doublespeak about not “isolating Russia.”
This, of course, doesn’t mean that Russia can stand there innocent and perpetually play the deck of victim cards it appears to have. Consistently claiming “russophobia” and “western plots” sounds more pathetic everyday. I think the Russians would have done well to just listen to Andy at Siberian Light and respond by giving no response to claim the moral high ground. Or they can take some advice from Don Corleone, who told a whining Johnny Fontaine, “You can act like a man! What’s the matter with you? Is this how you turned out?” But the Russians didn’t, to virtually no one’s surprise.
As many will point out at issue here is law and politics. And it is no surprise that when one side claims law, the other charges that it is really politics. True, Britain does have an obligation to solve a murder committed on its soil, especially one involving radioactive material. And Russia does have an obligation to follow its Constitution and protect its citizens from extradition.
But since Russia is certainly tired of being damned if they do and damned if they don’t, I think that they are going to hold to their guns and test how far Britain is willing to take this. Putin’s mantra is sovereignty and it appears there is no compromise on that. Considering this, we should remember whose audience Russia is more interested in addressing here: its own citizenry. Russia clearly has enough geopolitical clout to thumb its nose at the illusion that is the “international community” with little repercussion. Losing a bit more international capital is nothing compared to the domestic political capital gained from telling your people, “Look we are no longer a defeated nation and we aren’t going to take it any more.” Putin’s on a roll and with Parliamentary and a Presidential elections coming up, he’s not going to change course for anyone, let alone the British. Plus it all seems to be working. According to a recent poll conducted by VTsIOM, 90 percent of Russians polled approve of his foreign policy. Perhaps there is some Russian muzhestvennost’ at play here after all.