Finally the news we’ve all been waiting for. The British have formerly charged Andrei Lugovoi with the murder of Aleksandr Litvinenko. Reports Kommersant:
KGB former officer Andrey Lugovoy will be charged with intentional murder of FSB former officer and then exiled dissident Alexander Litvinenko, Sky News reported referring to Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Britain will seek to extradite Lugovoy.
There was one more suspect in Litvinenko’s case, his business partner Dmitry Kovtun, who had also met with Litvinenko on the day of polonium poisoning in Millennium hotel. But no charges against Kovtun have been presented yet.
FSB former officer Alexander Litvinenko died in a London hospital on November 23. The doctors diagnosed polonium poisoning. Britain’s detectives visited Russia past year and interrogated Kovtun and Logovoy, who denied the involvement.
Boris Berezovsky, the exiled tycoon of Russia, was also questioned in the course of investigation. Berezovsky predictably blamed the murder on Moscow and said the Kremlin wants to poison him as well.
More later . . .
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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: 104
By Sean — 11 years ago
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.Post Views: 66
By Sean — 11 years ago
It appears that the British police are about to find their men. Scotland Yard has decided to interrogate Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun as key witnesses in the Litvinenko murder. Lugovoi, 41, a Russian business man and former KGB officer was questioned by British and Russian investigators today. He also received tests for radiation posing, but vowed he would not to release them to the public. In a press conference, Lugovoi professed his innocence, adding, “Someone is trying to set me up. But I can’t understand who. Or why.”
Dmitry Kovtun has been the hospital with radiation poisoning for a week. And it was announced today that his ex-wife, her boyfriend, and her two children were hospitalized with contamination of radiation. Kovtun accompanied Lugovoi to meet Litvinenko on Nov. 1 at the Millennium Hotel in London. He is now being investigated by German police for being possession of radioactive material. British and Russian authorities questioned him last week. The British now want another crack at him. Kommersant reports,
The London police consider Dmitry Kovtun a witness in the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko. For its part, the Russian General Prosecutor’s office considers him a victim of attempted murder. Last weekend, however, Hamburg chief public attorney Martin Kenke announced that Dmitry Kovtun, who has a German residency permit, is being charged by the Hamburg police with the illegal possession and mishandling of radioactive materials. According to Mr. Kenke, the German investigators have grounds to believe that Dmitry Kovtun is not only a victim of radiation sickness but also the “poisoner” in the Litvinenko case.
Yesterday a representative of the Hamburg police told Kommersant that “the police currently cannot answer the question of what legal consequences the collected evidence against Mr. Kovtun could lead to.” “The investigation has several working versions, but we currently cannot comment on them,” said the police spokesman. In general, however, the Hamburg police believe that Dmitry Kovtun transported polonium-210 to Germany from Moscow on October 28. On that day, according to the police report, he flew to Hamburg on an Aeroflot flight from Moscow together with another Russian citizen, whose name has not been disclosed. Mr. Kovtun spent the night of October 28-29 in his ex-wife’s apartment on Hertzberger Street, where traces of polonium-210 were found. The next day he bought a pair of pants in one of the stores in the center of Hamburg, leaving traces of radiation behind. He spent the next night in his former mother-in-law’s apartment in the Haselau region, where radiation was also discovered.
It looks like Scotland Yard might have itself two potential suspects, that is, if they live. Or if they would even be extradited to Britain. The Russians have set conditions for the British investigation. Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika said last week that the Russian Constitution doesn’t allow extradition of Russian citizens to Britain, and that all interrogations would be done by Russian officials. Though there were hints that the investigation would go smoother if the British allow them to interrogate, and possibly extradite, Boris Berezovsky and Akhmed Zakaev in return.
And to top off everything, Litvinenko’s wife, Marina Litvinenko, 44, is speaking out. She told the Daily Mail, ““Sasha was a very emotional person. He could blame Putin. Obviously it was not Putin himself, of course not. But what Putin does around him in Russia makes it possible to kill a British person on British soil. I believe that it could have been the Russian authorities.”
The Charlie Rose Show has a roundtable discussion on the Litvinenko Affair with Prof. Stephen Cohen, Former Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Jack Matlock, Edward Jay Epstien, and Litvinenko’s co-author, Yuri Fleshtinsky. Watch it courtesy of Russia Blog.Post Views: 39