The Litvinenko Affair continues to be the story that just won’t go away. Perhaps for good reason. The British and Russians have done a lot of diplomatic posturing as a result. So much so that it’s appropriate to say that Litvinenko’s death was the beginning of a renewed souring between the two nations. Now 18 months later, it is still difficult mention Britain and Russia in the same sentence without conjuring Litvinenko’s ghost.
There is no need to recount the official narrative of the story. Anyone who’s been following knows its Hollywood-esque spy vs. spy twists and turns well enough already. But more people are beginning to ask questions about this celluloid narrative; questions that strive to cut through the smoke and smash the mirrors of conventional wisdom.
Edward Jay Epstein’s article in the New York Sun pioneered of this questioning. Now Mary Dejevsky of the Independent is following Epstein’s lead. She asks: “The [conventional] explanation is neat, self-contained and entirely plausible. But is it the truth, or anything like the truth?” Dejevsky then plots out five clusters of questions:
Consider the questions that remain open almost 18 months after Litvinenko’s death. There are a great many of them; some overlap, but they are roughly divisible into five clusters.
The most obvious relate to the polonium-210 that was identified as the cause of his illness just before he died. Then there is the role of Andrei Lugovoi. The Crown Prosecution Service says it has enough evidence to charge with murder, but the only third party to have seen the papers, Edward Epstein, says the case is extremely thin. Third, there are the mysterious activities of Litvinenko himself. The fourth cluster of questions concerns the part, if any, played by the British secret services, and, last, the role of the exiled Russian oligarch, the enigmatic Boris Berezovsky.
Her attempt to provide soluble answers follows. Check it out.
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By Sean — 11 years ago
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.Post Views: 115
By Sean — 10 years ago
The Russians are evil and pose a clear and present danger to Britain. That’s at least what being spewed in the British press. Recent days have been a reminder of the frozen relations between Britain and Russia.
First there was the short but tense meeting between British PM Gordon Brown and Russian President Medvedev at the G8. The latter gave the former “short shrift” reports the Financial Times,
Mr Medvedev was in no mood to give ground in the hour-long talks, believing that Mr Brown had deliberately soured the atmosphere by raising the issues, instead of looking exclusively to the future. Russian diplomats were also furious at reports in the British press last week which suggested London was awash with Russian spies. Moscow believes the leak came from MI5, the British security service.
Then there is the belief among the British security service that Russia presents the third greatest threat to British security. The Slavic nation follows Al-Qaeda and Iran. Always a bridesmaid and never a bride. Oh, how we wish for the days of the Cold War. Or are the British suggesting an new Axis of Evil?
Well, one could ignore the British report and the Medvedev-Brown tiff as business as usual. That is if it wasn’t followed by some outlandish assertions regarding the Litvinenko Affair and the FSB’s apparent love for poison.
The BBC’s Mark Urban is claiming that a senior British security official believes that “the Litvinenko case to have had some state involvement; there are very strong indications that it was a state action.” Also thanks to MI5’s deftness, an assassination attempt against Boris Berezovsky was thwarted last June. The supposed assassin, a certain “Mr. A,” was arrested and deported on 21 June 2007. Berezovsky told Newsnight that Mr. A wasn’t put on trial because “British intelligence did not want to reveal the source who had warned them that Mr A was traveling to London.” Ian Flemming couldn’t have plotted it better.
True, the Litvinenko story went beyond sense months ago. So much so, I wouldn’t be surprised if Berezovsky digs up Litvinenko’s radioactive corpse and starts wheeling it around a la Weekend at Bernie’s just to squeeze more press out of it.
Litvinenko is back in the funny papers just in time to draw interest in Andrei Nekrasov’s anti-Putin diatribe, Poisoned by Polonium. I saw the film a few weeks ago and I have to say that it was two of the most excruciating hours I’ve spent in a long time.
The plot is simple. Here we have good matured Sasha Litvinenko, who after becoming disillusioned by the FSB’s brutality in Chechnya and corruption among his colleagues, dedicates his life exposing its corruption and criminality. Conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory follows. The FSB blew up those Moscow apartments in 1999. The FSB conspired to take over the Russian state. The FSB engaged in all sorts of smuggling, extortion and mafiaesque acts. The film clearly uses Litvinenko’s book Blowing Up Russia: The Secret Plot to Bring Back KGB Terror as its Bible and like any biblical tale is full of folklore and prophecy.
The problem with Nekrasov’s portrayal of power, corruption, and brutality in Russia’s secret police is that he lumps the real with the fiction. Real conspiracy with its theoretical musing. There is no doubt in my mind that FSB agents, especially in the 1990s had links to organized crime. Just like I believe that there are elements in the FSB who continue to do so. But to equate the completely outlandish with the probable and then have no evidence to actually prove either makes the viewer walk away thinking that the only nuts in the celluloid jar are Nekrasov and Litvinenko.
Moreover, the film isn’t really about Litvinenko’s poisoning at all. It is merely the cherry on top of a decade long plot by Putin and his gang. Images of a bald, feeble Sasha doesn’t appear until the last 15 minutes or so. Most of the time we see a fit Sasha incessantly rattling away at his ideas. So the viewer learns little about Litvinenko’s actual poisoning. The perpetrator, Putin through his FSB proxy, is merely a logical conclusion of a long string of nefarious deeds. Chief suspect Andrei Lugovoi does makes a short appearance where he speaks nonsense. His presence, however, allows for the film’s only intentional comedic moment. At one point he offers Nekrasov a cup of tea. The filmmaker politely declines.
There are some notable people missing. Sure Berezovsky is there and he always good for a few laughs. Surprisingly, BAB’s chief propagandist, Alexander Goldfarb, is absent. As is a single interview with a British or Russian investigator to corroborate any of Nekrasov’s or Litvinenko’s allegations. Nor is it ever explained how Litvinenko, who was never that high in the FSB hierarchy, was able to know so much. Perhaps what is most disturbing is that Anna Politkovskaya also comes off as a total nut. Not so much from what she says but the fact that she’s looks and moves like a crazy person.
If pressed to say one positive thing about Poisoned by Polonium, it would be that Nekrasov is a master visual propagandist. His film eye is excellent. He has a knack for angled shots that add drama and suspense. His editing of stock footage, news clips, and interviews makes for a visually interesting film even if the content is complete crap.
Even if Litvinenko has slid to the back pages, it seems that there might be another toxic corpse on the horizon to pin on the Russians. About a week ago, British super spook Alex Allan, who chairs Britain’s Government’s Joint Intelligence Committee, was found unconscious in his home covered in blood. He now lies in the hospital in a coma. Given Allan’s position, British investigators haven’t totally ruled out foul play. Such beliefs, whether they are true or not makes from some good kompromat. And if you’re looking for kompromat, look no forward than the Sun, Britain’s newspaper of nonsense.
“Top security expert” Chris Dobson told the Sun for sordid “Did Russians or al-Qaeda poison Britain’s top spy?” that Allen is a prime target simply by virtue of his job to oversee and coordinate “every aspect of [the British” intelligence community.” Dobson continued,
“The nature of his sudden illness, if it is an assassination attempt, points towards the FSB, successors of Russia’s KGB. They are the masters of assassination by poison.
“They were blamed by Britain for the death of Alexander Litvinenko by radioactive polonium poisoning in London in 2006. And anti-Russian Vicktor Yashenko was horribly disfigured by poison which almost killed him during the election which made him President of the Ukraine.
“So Mr Putin, the former KGB colonel who runs Russia, ‘has form’. And he has become increasingly aggressive towards Britain, accusing us of espionage plots against Russia. Al-Qaeda is another suspect.
They would see his death as a great victory, fulfilling Osama Bin Laden’s threat to strike at the heart of the ‘infidel enemy’. What better target than the man whose job is dedicated to wiping them out?”
“He is therefore a prime target. The nature of his sudden illness, if it is an assassination attempt, points towards the FSB, successors of Russia’s KGB. They are the masters of assassination by poison.”
So I guess it’s just a matter of picking your poison. Al-Qaeda or the FSB. Or maybe they are just working together! Now there’s a plot for Poisoned by Polonium II.Post Views: 249
By Sean — 11 years ago
Theories about Alexandr Litvinenko’s death continue to swirl around the media. And while most suspect that the “fierce Kremlin critic” was assassinated by Putin or persons connected to him, another less highlighted theory is that Litvinenko might have been caught up in a polonium smuggling ring. This idea isn’t new. Russia Blog reported in December that the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung was “looking into the possibility that radiation poisoning victim Alexander Litvinenko and his associate Dimitry Kovtun were involved in smuggling polonium out of Russia.” “Alongside several other versions behind this crime,” a German police officer told the Berliner Zeitung at the time, “we are seriously considering the possibility that Litvinenko’s death could have been connected to the illegal trade in nuclear materials.” The officer then added that no clear evidence had been uncovered yet.
Now it seems that the polonium plot thickens. Reuters is reporting that Dmity Kovtun, who met with Litvinenko in London on 1 November with Andrei Lugovoy (who happens to be the former head of security for Boris Berezovsky), is going to Germany to talk to investigations about polonium smuggling. November 1 was the same day Litvinenko began complaining about feeling ill. Kovtun, of course, denies any connection to Litvinenko’s death. “Ach, wirklich?” say the Germans.
“Kovtun wants to come to Hamburg to meet with prosecutors, among other things,” attorney Wolfgang Vehlow told Reuters, adding that Kovtun has permanent residency in Germany and considers the northern port city of Hamburg a home.
Vehlow said it was unclear when the trip would happen. Kovtun developed symptoms of radiation poisoning, according to Russian prosecutors, and both he and Lugovoy spent several weeks in hospital after their return to Moscow from London.
There are conflicting reports about Kovtun’s health, but Vehlow said Kovtun was well enough to travel to Germany.
In other developments in the affair, it appears that the Russians and British have concluded a deal that would allow Russian investigators to question Boris Berezovsky. Or so said Deputy Prosecutor-General Alexander Zvyagintsev in an interview with Izvestia. The apparent deal with the Brits didn’t stop Zvyagintsev from rapping Britain for, of all things, bureaucratism. “Unfortunately, too much time is being taken up with technical and procedural questions and I hope they can be resolved faster,” Zvyagintsev complained. Adding, “When last year the English asked us to let them come here we did not insist on the observation of some of the formalities … Do we not have the right to expect similar cooperation?” Um, I don’t know, I distinctly remember the Russians unleashing their own “bureaucratic blitz” to stall the British investigation.
At some point you just have to sit back and appreciate the utter hilarity in all this.
Special thanks to Heribert Schindler from ?????????? ????????? for the German help. See comments section below.Post Views: 197