Today’s Kommersant has a detailed report on the Litvinenko Affair. Most reports now concede that Litvinenko was not poisoned by thallium because his symptoms don’t match the poison, but do agree he was poisoned by something and by someone. The rapid deterioration of his health doesn’t suggest otherwise. The speculation about who did it has centered around two theories. The first theory suggests that Litvinenko was poisoned by former FSB associates perhaps seeking revenge for his accusations that the FSB is responsible for the 1999
For its part, the Russian government has denied involvement. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told reporters, “Litvinenko is not the kind of person for whose sake we would spoil bilateral relations.” Adding, “It is absolutely not in our interests to be engaged in such activity.”
Still the perpetrators are narrowed to two Russians: Andrey Lugovoi and a mysterious man named
Scaramella was the last, but not only, person Litvinenko met with on the day of his poisoning.
Londonnewspapers, citing former KGB officer and defector Oleg Gordievsky, reported yesterday that Litvinenko drank tea with two Russian acquaintances on November 1. According to The Daily Telegraph, that meeting took place in a hotel and one of the people involved was Andrey Lugovoi, former head of security for ORT television. The second person was named Vladimir. Litvinenko had never met him before. Scotland Yard is not mentioning the two Russians as suspects, but admits that it is investigating the circumstances of that meeting.
Lugovoi graduated from the
Supreme Council Military Schoolin Moscowin 1987 and was assigned to the Kremlin division of the 9th department of the KGB of the USSR. In 1992, he was transferred to the Main Department of the Guard. In 1992 and 1993, Lugovoi worked as deputy head of the guard for Egor Gaidar, who was prime minister at the time. From 1997 to 2001, he was head of the security service for ORT. In June 2001, Lugovoi was charged with arranging the escape from custody of Nikolay Glushkov, one of the suspects in the so-called Aeroflot case. Lugovoi was sentenced in court to a year and two months’ prison, but since he had been held that long by the time the trial ended, he was released. He then went onto business.
Kommersant contacted Lugovoi yesterday. He refused to comment on the publication sin the British press where he is mentioned in connection with the attempt on Litvinenko’s life. “I won’t give any comments until I have met with representatives of the British embassy in
Moscowand answered their questions to clear up the situation,” he said. “Then maybe I’ll say what I think about all of this.” He said that he contacted the British embassy yesterday morning and talked to a high-placed member of the diplomatic corps.
The British Foreign Office and MI5 and MI6 intelligence services are refraining from official actions until the first results of the Scotland Yard investigation are received. The Foreign Office stated that the Litvinenko case had been discussed with Russian diplomats, but only “in the format of a note on the high interest in it by the press.”
Western analysts’ unofficial opinions support the idea that Litvinenko was the victim of the Russian special services. “The poisoning looks like the handiwork of former agents in new dress,” said Fritz Ermath, former head of the CIA intelligence council. He recalled three poisonings, of Yury Shchekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya (in September 2004) and Viktor Yushchenko, that the press attributed to the Kremlin. Ermath is of the opinion that “the desire of many people to accuse the Kremlin of poisoning is premature until the medical results are received… Too many different people could have done it – the Kremlin, friends of the Kremlin, and its enemies.”
The readiness for Westerns to believe that the Kremlin is behind every nefarious plot is a long standing view. In fact, suspicion, rumor and a willingness to accept conspiracy drove a whole generation of Soviet historiography. For example, many historians explain every bad thing that happened in the 1930s as a result of Stalin’s direct hand. This includes the murder of Sergei Kirov in 1934 and
Evidence doesn’t matter when it comes to
What is not in dispute is that there is a readiness in the west to believe the worst about Vladimir Putin’s government. Half of all Britons and more than 60% of French people think badly of
Russia– and with good reason: the erosion of basic freedoms and the rule of law are regrettable hallmarks of Mr Putin’s “managed” or “sovereign” democracy. Foreigners worry about Russia’s tightening grip on the energy sector, and its bad habit of bullying and intervening in countries such as Ukraine and Georgia in the old Soviet “near abroad”. It is not entirely incredible to suggest that unaccountable security men – whose budgets and influence have been boosted in recent years – could think that their old comrade in the Kremlin might not be too bothered by the demise of a man they consider a traitor to the motherland. And if old habits die hard, priorities change too: when the Federal Security Bureau exposed British spies at work in Moscow earlier this year, the charge was not that they were involved in Smiley-type skullduggery to recruit agents but were funding Russian non-governmental organisations, now routinely subject to Soviet-style smears.
These are good reasons to be concerned about
My point is that our own subjective imagination about
This is not to suggest that
Still, the jump to conspiracy without evidence, let alone the Tribune’s animalistic ascriptions, perpetuates