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Sunday, November 26, 2006

More on Litvinenko: Condemnations from Around the World


For complete e-text of Litvinenko's book Blowing up Russia about KGB complicity in the Moscow apartment bombings that were used to justify Putin's attack on Chechnya, click here. To read A Step at A Time's repost on Litvinenko's threat to the Kremlin over Beslan, click here. Following are news reports from around the world following up on the Litvinenko killing, with major points of interest in large boldface.

Exotic poisons have been a favorite weapon of Moscow's spy services and their allies ever since Soviet times. The Brits are especially unlikely to forget the Bulgarian dissident who was murdered with a ricin-tipped umbrella on a London street in 1978. The Soviet collapse did not end the sneak tactics. In 2002 a Saudi-born rebel leader in Chechnya known as Khattab reportedly died after being given a poison-soaked letter. A massive dose of dioxin disfigured and nearly killed the then Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko in 2004. That same year, the Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya nearly died after drinking a cup of tea she later said had been poisoned. This October she was found shot dead in Moscow. Litvinenko publicly blamed Putin for her death—and fell ill less than two weeks later. Earlier this year, the Russian Parliament explicitly authorized the use of force against enemies living abroad.


So, given all his enemies, who poisoned Litvinenko? Oleg Kalugin, for one, has no doubt. Kalugin, the former chief of KGB counterintelligence, became a highly vocal critic of the Soviet spy agency and now lives in the U.S. "This is just another confirmation of the criminal nature of the current regime," he said. "Litvinenko fell victim to the Russian security services. They resort to murder, and poison is one of the weapons they have used for decades."Kalugin knows whereof he speaks. In his 1994 book, "The First Chief Directorate," he wrote that when the Bulgarian government asked the KGB's help in killing Markov, Sergei Golubev, the spy agency official in charge of "wet jobs" (the chilling terminology for KGB assassinations), went to Sofia with the ricin pellets used in the murder. The KGB also provided the assassin with the umbrella that had a gas cartridge built into the tip to fire the pellets.Vitaly Yurchenko, a KGB official who defected to the West in 1985, told the CIA about a laboratory in Moscow where KGB scientists developed poisons for operational use, including the ricin used to kill Markov. According to Yurchenko, the facility was called Special Lab 100. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the KGB was split into the SVR, for foreign spying, and the FSB, for domestic security. Spy buffs might wonder how the domestic service could have targeted Litvinenko in London. But Kalugin says that about two years ago a new division was created inside the FSB, "a special department to carry out operations outside Russia. This was FSB, no question, not SVR."


KGB killers infiltrated Litvinenko's most trusted friends as they spent several months planning his assassination, a former Russian double-agent said last night. Ex-KGB colonel Oleg Gordievsky said: "As soon as I spoke to Alexander from his hospital bed I knew it was the KGB. "It has all the hallmarks of one of their assassinations. They would have used people whom he has known for years and trusted so he would not be on his guard. There are many methods the KGB have of assassinating people and this is one of them." Litvinenko received a massive radiation dose. Gordievsky said: "For him, it would have been like sitting under a nuclear bomb - that is the kind of radiation he got. "Two weeks after he had been poisoned it was still showing up in his urine. They use radiation because it is very secure and it causes a lot of suffering. It also sends out a message to other defectors of what will happen to them if they speak out." He added: "Usually, they will put a small pill into their victim's tea or another drink. It is colourless and odourless. "They also use a spray but they would have sprayed very thoroughly because the dosage was very high." The assassination would have been planned for up to seven months by two people - a hitman and a supervisor, he said. Gordievsky, 68 - Russia's highestranking defector - turned double agent after becoming disaffected with the regime in Russia during the Cold War.


Only a sophisticated "state sponsored" organisation could have orchestrated such a "flamboyant" assassination, MI5 is understood to have concluded. A Whitehall source told The Sunday Telegraph that, while no "smoking gun" linking the Putin government to the poisoning has yet emerged, circumstantial evidence does point towards the involvement of the FSB. According to the source, the FSB, which replaced the KGB, has been "emboldened" in the past eight months as a result of laws passed by the Russian parliament to allow state officials to carry out overseas assassinations. So far this year, Russian agents have carried out at least two such assassinations – shooting dead one victim in Estonia and another in Chechnya. The role of the FSB in both murders has been confirmed to this newspaper by a Whitehall source. "If it was the FSB, then trying to prove it will be a big problem. The FSB are very good at what they do and that includes killing their enemies. If they are behind this murder, we may never be able to prove it. This was clearly a flamboyant attack, designed to send a message to those who are believed to be enemies of Russia, and that message is, 'We can get to you anywhere in the world, and you will die a very painful death'."


On April 23, 2002, Alexander Litvinenko, a former officer of the Russian secret service, arrived at Heathrow, supposedly on a stopover before flying on to the Caribbean. Claiming that he was being persecuted by the Russian authorities, he sought political asylum. Alexander Valterovich Litvinenko was born in 1962 in Voronezh, south of Moscow. After high school and extended service in the Soviet Army (in which his grandfather was an officer), he graduated from the Interior Forces Military Academy, joining the KGB in 1988. While his early career was in espionage, by 1991 he had made a name for himself in the organised crime and anti-terror divisions. He also worked in the central apparatus, leading co-operation between the KGB, by then renamed the FSB, and the Moscow organised crime police squad. In 1997 he joined one of the FSB’s most secret departments, specialising in the pursuit of criminal organisations, and became its deputy head. This exemplary career came to an abrupt end on November 18, 1998, when, in a press conference, he accused his FSB superiors of extortion, corruption and illegal assassinations. The accusations were detailed and seemed credible. He was suspended and in March 1999 arrested and held in isolation in the infamous KGB Lefortovo prison. He was tried and acquitted in November 1999, but immediately rearrested. In 2000 charges were dropped after he promised to stay in Moscow. He and his family lived under intense surveillance and when they heard that further charges were being prepared, they fled. They flew to Turkey and from there to London. Tried in absentia and sentenced to nine years in prison,Litvinenko found work in Britain as a postman, while his wife taught ballroom dancing. He continued his campaign against his former employers in interviews and books, and contributed anti-Russian material to a Chechen website. At the time of his death he was investigating the murder of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya. He is survived by his wife Marina and his two children.

THE short but eventful life of Alexander Litvinenko reads like a John Le Carre thriller. Only real life is nastier than fiction. There is no doubt now that the former KGB official paid with his life for taking on President Putin. Litvinenko fell out with his masters after he confronted them with the evidence of the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings that killed over 300 people and which Kremlin blamed on Chechen separatists. Moscow used the apartment bombings to launch a murderous crackdown in Chechnya which killed hundreds of innocent people. Litvinenko, who sought and got political asylum in the UK in 2000, later published a book accusing Kremlin of involvement in the blowing up of apartment blocks in Moscow and Volgodonsk in 1999. Of course, Litvinenko was soon arrested for ‘exceeding his authority’ and prosecuted. But he was acquitted. His cat-and-mouse games with Kremlin continued until he defected to Britain in 2000. The rest, as they say, is history — or rather was history. However, if Russian agencies or their masters in Moscow believe the assassination of Litvinenko has eliminated another source of criticism against Putin, they are mistaken. In fact, as Litvinenko promised in his last statement, his killing has given birth to a rising chorus of protests that "will reverberate, Mr Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life." Although the Soviet Union is long dead and the KGB has been disbanded, the KGB mindset has apparently survived. Perhaps the fact that Putin himself is a former KGB official — there are many ex KGB operatives manning key positions in Kremlin — is responsible for this state of affairs.

Customers at a restaurant and an hotel visited by a poisoned ex-KGB officer will be tested for the radioactive substance that killed him, said health chiefs. The Health Protection Agency called for people who had been to the Itsu sushi restaurant or Millennium Hotel in central London on November 1 to come forward. Its appeal came as the Conservatives indicated that they would ask the Government to make a Commons statement over the affair. The HPA is taking "extremely seriously" concerns that other people may have been contaminated by the Polonium-210 that led to the death of Alexander Litvinenko in hospital although it made clear the risk was low.

Putin: Killer of Freedom
THE murdered Russian journalist whose death Alexander Litvinenko had been investigating believed Vladimir Putin's regime was "killing" democracy in Russia.In one of her final interviews, Anna Politkovskaya said President Putin was to blame for fuelling terrorism and returning Russia to Stalinism. Speaking to the BBC, she painted a picture of a country where terrorism would remain a threat for at least 20 years and gave a chilling portrait of the man at its helm. "The birth of democracy was hard, but it was born and he is killing it," she said. "His years in the Kremlin have meant the next generation will have to do a great deal, take a giant leap to get out of the problems."

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