ABC News is reporting that Polonium-210 can be purchased over the internet:
Polonium-210, the radioactive substance that killed former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko, is easily available on the Internet, but it could take $1 million to amass a lethal amount, according to leading authorities.
Polonium-210 isotopes are offered online by a number of companies, including United Nuclear of New Mexico. The company sells polonium-210 isotopes for about $69 but says it would take about 15,000 orders, for a total cost of over $1 million, to have a toxic amount.
United Nuclear today posted an online clarification to answer concerns they are selling weapons of assassination.
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By Sean — 11 years ago
Another twist was added to the “Litvinenko Affair” on Sunday. The Sunday Telegraph features an article about Norberto Andrade, the waiter who served Litvinenko, Vyacheslav Sokolenko, Andrei Lugovoi, and Dmitri Kovtun at the Pine Bar at the Millennium Hotel in London the night of Litvinenko’s infamous poisoning. Andrade claims that while he didn’t actually see the poison delivered, he believes that he was deliberately distracted so that polonium could be sprayed into a teapot of green tea.
“When I was delivering gin and tonic to the table, I was obstructed. I couldn’t see what was happening, but it seemed very deliberate to create a distraction. It made it difficult to put the drink down.
“It was the only moment when the situation seemed unfriendly and something went on at that point. I think the polonium was sprayed into the teapot. There was contamination found on the picture above where Mr Litvinenko had been sitting and all over the table, chair and floor, so it must have been a spray.”
As a veteran waiter myself, I have an idea of what Andrade is talking about. There you are with a bunch of drinks your patrons ordered and when you dutifully bring said order, the customers make it difficult to serve it. Um like, hello, there is a person standing here and this tray is kinda heavy. My question is was Andrade’s experience really a distraction or merely indifference? Andrade is assuming that the four men actually acknowledged his existence when he was serving the table. Given the lavishness of the Pine Bar, it wouldn’t surprise me if customers regularly ignored the presence of the “help”.
But be that as it may, Andrade was there and I wasn’t, and he could have indeed been distracted. (Having customers look at me stupid, if they ever did at all, was one reason, among many, why I got out of that biz.) Plus the fact that Andrade is now convinced that something was amiss that night is perfectly normal. With knowing that he served Litvinenko’s last cup of tea, along with the constant loop of the incident in his mind, I’m sure a lot of what would normally be considered ordinary that night, now seems unusual, deliberate, and well planned.
In addition to being distracted, Andrade also claims that when he poured out the radioactive brew he noticed that “the contents of the teapot had turned a “funny colour”.
“When I poured the remains of the teapot into the sink, the tea looked more yellow than usual and was thicker – it looked gooey,” he recalled to the Telegraph. “I scooped it out of the sink and threw it into the bin. I was so lucky I didn’t put my fingers into my mouth, or scratch my eye as I could have got this poison inside me.”
Later investigators found the picture hanging above where Litvinenko was sitting was contaminated, suggesting that the assassin’s method of delivery was probably a spray.
Since the murder was made public, Andrade claims that he’s suffered from nightmares and fears for the safety of his wife and two grandchildren. I doubt the disclosure of his story to the Telegraph will do anything to alleviate those fears. Some advice. Watch you back, brother. Watch your back.
The article doesn’t indicate the role Andrade’s testimony is playing in the investigation. But according to Alexander Goldfarb, a friend and spokesman for the Litvinenko family, the revelation is “extremely significant” evidence, adding that,”Up until now [British authorities] asked all of us not to say anything publicly which might be constituted as evidence at the trial. Possibly, they have decided that they’re not going to get Mr. Lugovoi and have him stand trial.”
As far as I know, Andrade is the first witness to go public with testimony. While his words are hardly grounds for strong evidence, perhaps they symbolize more to come in the coming weeks? Time will tell. At least it will give the story a bit more life in the bowels of our ever digesting news cycle.Post Views: 467
By Sean — 10 years ago
The recent flurry in the comments section over the polonium poisoning of Aleksandr Litvinenko has inspired me to revisit the issue. When I last left the case, it was reveled that Litvinenko was on retainer with MI6. Andrei Lugovoi, Britain’s chief suspect in the crime, was listed as a Duma candidate on the LDPR ticket. Now Deputy Lugovoi’s goal was to get the immunity that comes with the seat. Lugovoi didn’t need it. The Russian Constitution prohibits extradition, and the Russians weren’t looking like their they were going to fold anyway.
Nevertheless, Lugovoi was clearly looking for a little extra krysha in case some behind the scenes deal was hammered out. Zhirinovskii’s LDPR was a good pick. The case is the kinda thing the flamboyant Zhirik loves, and that is despite the fact the LDPR (and all major Russian political parties) are known to sell their Duma seats to the highest bidder. Whether Lugovoi dolled out cash for the privilege of getting one of the forty coveted LDPR seats is unknown. It’s likely that adding Lugovoi to the ticket was a PR move on Zhirik’s part. Not to mention a way to stick it to the Brits.
Here we are in April 2008 and the fascination with the Litvinenko case doesn’t seem to be going away. There is no real reason why it should. The case is just flat out weird. And it’s getting weirder. On April 1, the US House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution urging the Kremlin to aid the British in their investigation. House Resolution 154, authored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lethtinen (R, FL-18th). The resolution is fitting for an April Fool’s joke. With a sliding economy, a war seemingly without end, and litany of other domestic issues, one would think the House has something better to do. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to think so.
Litvinenko’s wife Marina is continuing her efforts to get her husband’s murder solved. And who could blame her given the circumstances and the aftermath of her husband’s death. In a plea published in the London Times, Mrs. Litvinenko is doubtful Lugovoi will ever be extradited, saying “I cannot wait for another ten years for a slim chance that their approach would bear fruit.” Ten years? Try never. She understands this as much as anyone else and instead of urging the British government to issue yet another extradition request, she rather have them open the investigation to the public. “If I cannot get justice,” she writes, “then at least I need the full truth.”
Perhaps. I’m increasingly convinced that the “full truth” will never be revealed in this case. Simply because the “truth” became so blackened by both the British and the Russians as soon as the case became a diplomatic fiasco. So much of the available information has been subject to what Nick Davies calls “flat earth news” i.e. “A story appears to be true. It is widely accepted as true. It becomes a heresy to suggest that it is not true – even if it is riddled with falsehood, distortion and propaganda.”
“Flat earth news” aptly describes the Litvinenko case. The question of who killed him is so mired in duel of diplomatic dick swinging between the “rule of law” British versus shadowy “elements of the Russian government” (the British version) and a conniving Boris Berezovsky and an “imperialist” Britain using the Litvinenko case in a broader effort to undermine Russian sovereignty (the Russian version). Finally, the biggest flat earth notion of all is the canonization of Litvinenko as some sort of dissident martyr. A LexisNexis search for use of “Litvinenko” and “dissident” in the same sentence reveals 597 stories. Even more interesting is that the two words appear only in five articles before his poisoning in November 2006.
Creeping from the mire is a theory that Litvinenko was poisoned by accidentally coming into contact with or being personally involved in a polonium smuggling ring. This is the line Edward Jay Epstein is peddling his article “The Specter that Haunts the Death of Litvinenko” in the New York Sun. Granted, the Sun is, as Marina Litvinenko called it, “a third rate paper.” But Epstein has made the Litvinenko Case a pet project, doing more investigation into it than any other Western journalist. You can find a his thoughts on the case on his blog. The question then is if Epstein’s investigation is so serious and thorough then why publish it in a proto-tabloid like the Sun? I think the answer is simple. Epstein’s take on the Litvinenko Case completely diverges from the accepted narrative you find in every paper that has covered the story. Perhaps, he suggests, the earth isn’t as flat as we think.
Epstein’s article is worth a read. Not so much because he has any concrete evidence linking Litvinenko’s murder to polonium smuggling. In fact, his evidence is no more solid that any other journalists’ account. The article’s value is in his questioning of the accepted and unchallenged assumptions about the British investigation, the chain of events, Litvinenko’s movement around London, the role of Berezovsky, and why no one seems to be concerned about finding out where exactly the polonium came from, especially given the global concern for possible nuclear terrorism. The British criminal indictment of Andrei Lugovoi has obscured the very question of nuclear terrorism. Epstein writes,
In terms of a public relations tactic, it resulted in a brilliant success by putting the blame on Russian stonewalling for the failure to solve the mystery. What it obscured is the elephant-in-the-room that haunts the case: the fact that a crucial component for building an early-stage nuke was smuggled into London in 2006. Was it brought in merely as a murder weapon or as part of a transaction on the international arms market?
This leads him to his own hypothesis:
After considering all the evidence, my hypothesis is that Litvinenko came in contact with a Polonium-210 smuggling operation and was, either wittingly or unwittingly, exposed to it. Litvinenko had been a person of interest to the intelligence services of many countries, including Britain’s MI-6, Russia’s FSB, America’s CIA (which rejected his offer to defect in 2000), and Italy’s SISMI, which was monitoring his phone conversations.
His murky operations, whatever their purpose, involved his seeking contacts in one of the most lawless areas in the former Soviet Union, the Pankisi Gorge, which had become a center for arms smuggling. He had also dealt with people accused of everything from money laundering to trafficking in nuclear components. These activities may have brought him, or his associates, in contact with a sample of Polonium-210, which then, either by accident or by design, contaminated and killed him.
To unlock the mystery, Britain must make available its secret evidence, including the autopsy report, the comprehensive list of places in which radiation was detected, and the surveillance reports of Litvinenko and his associates. If Britain considers it too sensitive for public release, it should be turned over to an international commission of inquiry. The stakes are too high here to leave unresolved the mystery of the smuggled Polonium-210.
The Russian media gleefully jumped all over Epstein’s article. Andrei Lugovoi quickly voiced his agreement with Epstein’s finding in a press conference. “I was pleasantly surprised that a foreign journalist carried out the first independent investigation into the “Litvinenko Case” and made, in my view, the correct conclusions.”
Who knows whether Epstein is right or wrong, or I should say, no more right or wrong than anyone else. But at least he’s stirring the proverbial pot.Post Views: 604
By Sean — 8 years ago
DE RUEHMO #2429/01 1441227
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 241227Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0559
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 002429
EO 12958 DECL: 05/23/2017
TAGS PREL, PGOV, PINR, RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIAN REACTION TO LITVINENKO MURDER CHARGES
REF: LONDON 1997
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns. Reasons 1.4 (b and d).
1. (C) SUMMARY: The GOR is highly unlikely to extradite former FSB officer Andrey Lugovoy to Britain, citing constitutional and other legal prohibitions against the extradition of Russian citizens. Official and unofficial Russian reaction to the May 22 British announcement that Lugovoy would be charged with the murder of Aleksandr Litvinenko has been nearly uniform in rejecting the UK request that he stand trial in London. The MFA held out the prospect of further cooperation in the investigation, while citing the impossibility of extradition, but other Russian commentators were more categorical, suggesting that the British charges were politically motivated. A few opposition voices called for Lugovoy to voluntarily submit to British justice. The British Embassy expects a further worsening in the UK-Russia and EU-Russia relationships. We should continue to reinforce to the GOR the damaging consequences to Russia’s reputation should this case fail to reach trial. END SUMMARY.
2. (C) On May 22, the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service announced that it had sufficient evidence to request Lugovoy’s extradition and to charge him with the polonium poisoning of Litvinenko in November 2006. UK Ambassador Brenton told the Ambassador May 23 that the UK Embassy expected to receive the final warrant by the end of the week and would transmit it to the Procuracy shortly thereafter.
EXTRADITION: OBSTACLES AND OPTIONS
3. (SBU) Both the Russian Constitution and the Criminal Code prohibit the GOR from extraditing Russian citizens, as is the case in several other European countries whose legal systems have evolved from the Napoleonic code. Russia has a 2006 Memorandum of Understanding with the Crown Prosecution Service and is a signatory to the 1957 European Convention on Extradition. Both of these were mentioned in the Prosecution Service’s announcement of the charges, but neither of them would supersede the Russian Constitution and obligate Russia to extradite Lugovoy. There is a precedent for the GOR to prosecute Russian citizens in lieu of extradition. Three times it has done so at U.S. request — two murders and one money laundering case — but none of these cases led to a conviction, and the British are not apparently considering this option.
4. (SBU) In a May 22 statement on its website, the MFA reiterated its readiness to cooperate further in an objective investigation into Litvinenko’s death, but it emphasized that Russia’s legal prohibitions against extradition were well known and similar to those in place in other countries.
5. (SBU) Other official and unofficial Russian reaction was overwhelmingly against the British request. Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said that the Russian parliament would uphold Russian law and not allow Lugovoy to be returned to Britain. International Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev warned that diplomatic relations with the UK would be negatively affected should the charges be politically motivated. Duma Deputy Viktor Ilyukhin, the vice chair of the Duma’s Security Committee, rhetorically asked why Russia should even consider Britain’s request when it ignored the GOR’s efforts to extradite Boris Berezovskiy and Chechen separatist emissary Akhmed Zakayev. LDPR Chairman Vladimir Zhironovskiy thought that Russian law enforcement might want to trade Lugovoy for Berezovskiy.
6. (SBU) Independent Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov was one of the few who suggested Russia’s international interests ought to take precedence over national law and expressed confidence in the results of the British investigation. Protecting Lugovoy would lead to extensive damage to Russia’s image abroad, he said. Likewise, LDPR Deputy Aleksey Mitrofonov publicly called on Lugovoy to return to London voluntarily. Mitrofonov said that Russia and Britain needed to resolve the issue or Russia faced the prospect of further deterioration in its relations with the West amid growing suspicions that the GOR was protecting Lugovoy. He suggested that “public” pressure on Lugovoy to voluntarily face British justice might be the best way out of an impasse.
BRITAIN’S NEXT STEPS
7. (C) Noting that the UK would be seeking an EU statement of support in urging Russia to agree to extradition (reftel), Brenton predicted that the failure to turn over Lugovoy would create serious problems in London’s bilateral relationship with Moscow, and potentially problems in the EU-Russian relationship as well. Failing any progress, he reiterated the UK may reassess whether it would support a new EU-Russia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. The German and French missions have expressed to us their doubts about this approach, noting the similar constitutional restrictions on the extradition of nationals by some EU countries.
PUBLIC APATHY ABOVE ALL
8. (C) Ekho Moskvy’s Aleksey Venediktov told us separately there is little chance of a resolution soon, particularly given the rift in relations between Putin and Blair. Putin believes PM Blair betrayed him over the British refusal to extradite Berezovskiy, and Venediktov said that the GOR has now pinned its hopes for a better relationship with Britain on Brown. Venediktov said Russian public opinion is largely indifferent to the whole affair, based on responses to Ekho’s on-air discussions about Litvinenko’s death, and doubted it would be a factor in the GOR position. Demos Center’s Tanya Lokshina similarly questioned whether there would be anything other than public support for the GOR’s position and that the public was more likely to believe that the charge against Lugovoy was one more Western provocation.
9. (C) Comment. It is highly unlikely that the GOR will yield its constitutional principle on extradition. There is no indication that any Russian offer of cooperation short of extradition will satisfy the Crown Prosecution Service’s request. Given the sensational nature of the murder and the uncertainty over where the trial may lead beyond Lugovoy, there has been little official interest expressed in Lugovoy clearing his name in a UK court. Although we know of no other legal mechanisms that would trump the Russian constitution, we should continue to reinforce to the GOR the long-term damage to Russia’s reputation if this case fails to go to trial. BURNSPost Views: 417