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 — 12 years ago
Litvinenko mania continues. A web of personalities, events, investigations, analyses and conspiracy theories has been woven so intricately that it is difficult to make any sense of it all. I think it’s time to consult the tea leaves and chicken bones. Maybe the gods can tells us who killed Alexandr Litvinenko and why. But since the gods don’t seem to be answering their phones, or maybe my tea leaves and chicken bones are a bit too weathered, I suggest a few articles below to catch up (or is it confuse?) those interested (if there is anyone left!) on unfolding details on a story that seems will never die. One thing is for sure in all this mess, Litvinenko was clearly involved in some shady business that is not fitting for a fierce critic or saintly dissident many tried to paint him to be.
When one compares the path the investigation is taking to the original accusations and assumptions that Litvinenko’s death was part of a Kremlin plot, one can’t help wonder what, if anything, Western media knows about Russia. This is why I think what I wrote when the whole affair began still stands: “Litvinenko’s murder has little to do with Litvinenko. He is merely symbolic of a greater fear that many Westerners have of an ascendant Russia. And given the legacy of Cold War thinking about Russia, its ascendancy is cast in familiar, yet thoroughly misguided terms and assumptions.” But I digress . . .
Did the Russian Mafia Kill Alexandr Litvinenko?
by Justin Raimondo
They’re making a movie about the Litvinenko affair, but if Hollywood hews to the narrative dished out by the British tabloids, then I wouldn’t count on it being a box office hit. After all, the idea that the Kremlin would assassinate such an insignificant “dissident” by poisoning him with $10 million worth of rare polonium – and leaving a radioactive trail a mile wide back to the Kremlin’s doorstep – is so implausible that no one could possibly believe it. Unless, of course, it is presented as “news,” rather than entertainment – two categories that are often indistinguishable from each other, at least in the U.S.
The journalistic lynch mob that jumped on Vladimir Putin, tying him to the alleged murder of Alexander Litvinenko, is wiping egg off its collective face as new evidence comes to light. Not that this crowd needs much in the way of evidence to convince them of the Kremlin’s utter perfidy: in the case of Litvinenko’s bizarre poisoning with a radioactive substance, polonium-210, they didn’t need any. All they had to do was print press releases handed out by Boris Berezovsky’s slick public-relations operation and decry the supposed degeneration of Russian “democracy” from the good old days of Boris Yeltsin, when it was possible to steal entire industries without worrying about going to jail.
To really get a handle on the truth about this mysterious affair, what we have to do is look at what Charles Krauthammer and Max Boot are saying – and then draw the opposite conclusion. The two of them, naturally, accuse Putin of murdering Litvinenko, without – of course – bothering with such mundane details as the extremely odd method of utilizing such an unusual weapon, or what the Kremlin could possibly hope to gain. Their fact-free screeds are all supposition, and both evade the central reality of this case: as the Moscow Times points out, “The common thread linking all the players in Litvinenko’s death is that they have all worked for Berezovsky.”
Poisoned Russian ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko appears to have been involved in collecting information about Alexei Golubovich, a longtime associate of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former head of the Russian oil company, Yukos. Khodorkovsky is in jail in Russia for tax evasion. Golubovich was a top official of Yukos from 1992 to 2000 and is under house arrest in Italy at the request of Russia which has charged him with fraud and embezzlement.
A woman living in London told the press that she sought out Litvinenko for “book research” and that he told her that he was planning to blackmail some Russian oligarchs who had been targeted by the Russian Federal Security Service because they had looted the country. She did not tell the press that she worked for Golubovich, who fit that description.
The story about the investigation of Golubovich has not been published before.
Litvinenko died in London Nov. 23 from a lethal dose of radioactive polonium-210. He had reportedly been building dossiers on corrupt Russian businessmen.
Leonid Nevzlin Gets Polonium and Mercury
By Nikolai Sergeev
Prosecutor General’s Office announced yesterday that it is investigating a possibility that former co-owner of YUKOS Leonid Nevzlin might be involved in the poisoning of former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko with polonium-210, and an assassination attempt against his business partner Dmitry Kovtun in London. The Office claims that investigators established connection between this crime and a certain attempt at poisoning by means of mercury. The Office says that mercury vapors “were found in cars, apartments, country houses, and offices both in Moscow and in London”. It has already created an investigatory group to probe into those crimes. The Office intends to prepare documents soon and to “direct requests for legal help in the criminal cases under investigation to corresponding competent authorities, and to raise the question of extradition of several citizens charged with heavy crimes who are taking refuge abroad”.
The Office’s statements were transmitted to news agencies with “urgent” markings on them. Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Premier, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told Kommersant already a week ago that London’s polonium scandal may receive a most sudden continuation. “I admit that if the investigation goes on, — and I hope it will go on, for we are interested in it, — completely unexpected versions might appear, which are not considered now at all,” predicted Ivanov back then.
Apparently, a “new version” appeared after Leonid Nevzlin and his family traveled to the U.S. from Israel on December 24. Two days after their arrival to New Jersey, Interpol’s National Bureau in Russia said that Nevzlin encountered some problems. He was allegedly detained in the airport, but then they let him go, having informed Russian law-enforcement authorities about his current location. Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office has been looking for Nevzlin abroad for two years already, due to secret accusations in organizing murders and assassination attempts. However, the Office received refusal to extradite Nevzlin from other countries. The U.S. also refused to give him out last year. Now the secret accusations have been reinforced by secret suspicions.Post Views: 383
By Sean — 11 years ago
The diplomatic confrontation between Russian and Britain is hitting a boiling point. In response to the expulsions, Russia said they were “russophobic,” ‘immoral,” and part of “a carefully choreographed action” that could result in a political backlash. Nevertheless, Mikhail Kamynin, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, reiterated Russia’s willingness to cooperate with Britain in the Litvinenko case.
That doesn’t mean that Russia is going to sit idle. Alexander Grushko was quoted in the Guardian saying that Russia will give their response soon adding that whatever it will berespo1 Russian-British business ties will be kept in mind. Russia’s Resources Minister, Yuri Trutnev, told reporters that “I don’t think it makes sense to impose restrictions that would affect the investment climate, because that would be very expensive, including for Britain.” He’s right and the Guardian concurs. There is no way Russian or British elites are going to pump this crisis up far enough so it starts hitting their wallets. For what? Justice? Lugovoi? Pride? There are limits to pride and they usually begin and end with one’s pocket book. As Marsellus Wallace said in Pulp Fiction, “Fuck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps.”
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that the crisis will be free of all sorts of historical imagery and comparisons. The Guardian declared that “Cold War Diplomacy is Back as UK Expels Spies” but failed to explain the connection. The Daily Telegraph stated that Britain’s actions hark back to the “depths of the Cold War” when Russian and Britain engaged in tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions in 1985. The article then proceeds to recount the 1985 crisis to suggest continuity.
Russia also pulled out some historical arrows from its rhetorical quiver. One Kremlin adviser, Sergei Markov said that Britain was behaving in an “imperial” manner. Vladimir Zhirinovsky dug deep into the history books saying that Britain’s machinations can be spotted not only in the Crimean War, which Russia lost against Britain, but also in Alexander II’s assassination, and the Russo-Japanese War. Zhiri is always good for a laugh. I’m surprised he didn’t bring up the 1927 war scare over Britain’s proposal to give Germany Danzig and the Polish Corridor in the Western powers efforts to redraw the Eastern European map. Just for fun, if historical allusions must be made, I think that revisiting the “Great Game” of the 19th century is the most promising and often neglected because of the Cold War’s continued hegemony of historical memory.
Andrei Lugovoi has also responded to Norberto Andrade’s claims that he was distracted the night of Litvinenko’s poisoning. Lugovoi called Andrade’s statements “laughable” and either “a lie or stupidity.”
Lie maybe, stupidity, well, that certainly can’t be applied to Mr. Andrade alone. It’s clear that both Britain and Russia are skipping hand in hand down Stupid Lane quite gaily.Post Views: 459
By Sean — 9 years ago
Scott Anderson’s article “Vladimir Putin’s Dark Rise to Power” is a throwback to the 1990s when ex-KGBmen turned mafioso, private security, or hired hands to execute nefarious plots. It is also a showcase of bygone figures. Once powerful, influential, or at least in the public eye who have since drifted into memory only to be periodically conjured up as partisan weaponry of high politics. You know the names: Boris Berezovsky, Alex Goldfarb, Aleksandr Litvinenko, and Mikhail Trepashkin. The latter serves as the hero of Anderson’s tale. The gatekeeper of a longstanding conspiracy that many Russians know well: The FSB carried out the apartment bombings on Guryanova St. in Moscow that brought down eight floors and killed ninety-four residents in their beds.
It’s been a while since Trepashkin’s name graced an English language publication. He’s spent the last several years serving two stints in the clank. In 2003, he was arrested for illegal arms possession and divulging state secrets (the former charge was eventually dropped, the latter stuck). And then just as he was freed in September 2005, he was scooped up again. He was released in 2007. Four years for likely trumped up charges. Such is what happens when you piss off the wrong people in Russia.
But now Trepashkin has come out of the woodwork to tell his story to Scott Anderson. But the details of the story aren’t really the issue. Anyone who’s familiar with the apartment bombings already knows the in-outs of the incident and the conspiracy theories behind them. Anderson didn’t even have to go to Russia. He could have just watched that horrible Rebellion: The Litvinenko Case documentary and got the story there.
The real story, however, is really the story itself. Indeed, as many Russia watchers discovered last week, Conde Nast, the company that owns GQ in Russia, made an executive decision to not run the story there. According to the NPR report on the matter:
“Conde Nast management has decided that the September issue of U.S. GQ magazine containing Scott Anderson’s article ‘Vladimir Putin’s Dark Rise to Power’ should not be distributed in Russia,” Birenz wrote.
He ordered that the article could not be posted to the magazine’s Web site. No copies of the American edition of the magazine could be sent to Russia or shown in any country to Russian government officials, journalists or advertisers. Additionally, the piece could not be published in other Conde Nast magazines abroad, nor publicized in any way.
The story doesn’t even exist on GQ’s English site. The only place you can read the story is on Gawker and a site called Ratafia Currant. So what made Conde Nast pull the plug? Self-censorship? Commercial interests? Or was it a plain PR stunt to bring attention to an article that would most likely be ignored? Who knows. I am more inclined to think the latter.
But the thing I find funny about all of this is Gawker‘s self-appointed mission to translate the article into Russian “as a public service” because “Condé Nast has gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent Russians from reading a GQ article criticizing Vladimir Putin.” I mean, really what planet are they from? Um, the Iron Curtain, like, fell eighteen years ago. There isn’t a cloak of darkness over Russia that filers out anything anti-Putin. Take it from me, the Russians don’t need Americans to save them from themselves. The last time that happened, it didn’t work out to well for the Russians.
The truth is that this conspiracy isn’t new by any means. Nor does Anderson shed any new light on it. An internet search will turn up all sorts of versions of it. Hell, even the Russian wikipedia entry on the bombings chronicles the “unofficial versions” of the story. Yet Gawker is all ecstatic that a few Russian sites have picked up their Russian translation. One is a blog on LJ. The other is one of those creepy Russian nationalist forums. Now Russian news outlets have picked up on the story and adding their own conspiracies to explain the conspiracy. But the thing is there might not even be one. According to a statement from Nikolai Uskov, the editor-in-chief of GQ Russia, published in Nezavisimaya gazeta:
It is hard for me to comprehend how this company can prevent the distribution of its own magazine anywhere. What has reverberated on Ekho Moskvy and then repeatedly said on the Internet, is not completely correct: a Russian publisher, like any other media company, is an independent product. We’re not obligated to reprint American material, and moreover receive recommendations not to do so. I have personally not received any prohibitions or directions whatsoever from management about not translating or reprinting this article. But it would also not enter my head to do it. . . . Similar material in the Russian media would appear quite strange today. There is nothing in this article that is sensational.
Basically, the story is old news. And if there is an order to not translate and publish the story, Uskov hasn’t heard of it. That’s rather strange isn’t it?
So is Conde Nast’s act of “self-censorship” merely a back handed way to stir up criticism of Putin and the strangling of the press in Russia? Perhaps. But perhaps as Evgeny Morozov notes, it just might be pure incompetence on Conde Nast’s part and now they are suffering the whiplash of the Streisand Effect. After all, Conde Nast isn’t really getting anything from this but a bunch of negative press. But as they say even bad press is good press.
But the article and the whole stunt surrounding it might just be another opportunity to piss on Putin. Though the piss will come more in a trickle than a hot steady stream. His image among Americans is already so soiled that not even the toughest Tide Stain Release could wash it clean. One more story about a shadowy Putinist plot can’t make things any worse. Nevertheless, the timing is interesting. This week is tenth anniversary of the bombings and a month shy of ten years since Putin became Prime Minister. Digging up the conspiracy is just another reminder that the strongman of Russia might have gotten his power by exploiting a tragedy that was really carried out by his buds in the FSB.
Remember children, conspiracies happen over there in the dark shadowy world of Russia. It’s that whole “‘riddle wrapped up in an enigma” thang. Here in America, we rightfully dismiss our crackpot conspiracy theorists–from the 9/11 Truthers to the tin-foil wearing Trilateral Commission believers and Lyndon La Rouchites–for what they are: nutjobs. But their Slavic equivalents? Nah. Somehow they are bearers of the truth.Post Views: 1,010