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Sunday, January 14, 2007

What about Ponomarev?

A reader writes to observe some chilling suspicions about the Litvinenko affair.

On January 9th, A Day at a Time reported on the suspicous demise of Igor Ponomarev, representative of Russia in the International Maritime Organization (pictured, right), on Octrober 30, 2006, two days before Alexander Litvinenko was struck down and one day before Ponomarev was scheduled to meet with Litvinenko’s Italian contact, Mario Scaramella. Ponomarev was diagnosed as having suffered a heart attack, but the source indicated that his symptoms were more consistent with a poisoning.

On November 29th, Macroworld Investor had reported:

THE Italian with links to a Russian defector whose death is being investigated by police in London was scheduled to see Igor Ponomarev – Russia's ambassador to the International Maritime Organization – the day after Mr Ponomarev died.

Mario Scaramella, the consultant who on November 1 had a sushi lunch with Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko, just before Mr Litvinenko fell ill with radiation poisoning, had a meeting scheduled with Mr Ponomarev on October 31.

Mr Ponomarev , who was chairman of the IMO's Maritime Safety Committee, died of a heart attack on October 30. There is no suggestion that Mr Ponomarev's death was suspicious.

The 'incredible coincidence' was revealed in an email sent by Mr Scaramella to Mr Litvinenko while he was still alive and later forwarded to British Euro MP Gerard Batten.

Written in broken English and dated November 6, the email reads: 'It was very strange that you were sick soon after our meeting. Mr Igor Ponomarev I scheduled to meet in London at International Maritime Organization suddenly died for (sic) a heart attack on October 30 the day before our meeting. Such an incredible coincidence. Anyway I reported to UN IMO countries our development with the state rocket centre.'

Mr Ponomarev , 41, was head of the Russian permanent mission to the IMO and had diplomatic status. His deputy, Igor Panevkin, said yesterday that he was aware of Mr Scaramella but did not know of any meeting between the Italian and Mr Ponomarev .

The email has brought to light details of Mr Scaramella's activities in London at the IMO during the days when Mr Litvinenko fell ill.

Mr Scaramella holds the position of consultant for the little known Naples-based group Environmental Crime Prevention Programme.

However, delegates to the meetings of the London Convention, a body on maritime waste, take him and his detective work seriously.

Records held by the IMO show he attended the London Convention's meeting between October 30 and November 3 with 'observer status' on behalf of the Environmental Crime Prevention Programme. He was a regular attendee at past convention meetings, granted observer status in 2002.

London Convention is not part of the IMO, but the IMO provides it with secretariat services.

At the October 30 meeting, Mr Scaramella told delegates, according to as yet unpublished minutes confirmed by IMO, that he had signed an agreement with a Russian state arms manufacturer as part of his investigation into the illegal dumping of radioactive material.

He concluded a 'memorandum of understanding' with the Russian Federation State Rocket Centre 'for implementing co-operation under the auspices of the competent ministry of foreign affairs'. The State Rocket Centre specialises in ballistic missiles and launching mechanisms for ships and submarines, as well as civilian space projects.

The minutes state: 'The ECCP observer informed the meeting that it was continuing its investigation into the illegal dumping of radioactive material and related crime issues. An MOU had been concluded between the Russian Federation State Rocket Centre and the ECCP secretariat for implementing co-operation under the auspices of the competent ministry of foreign affairs'.

At the previous meeting Mr Scaramella had participated in debate on toxic waste shipments to Somalia and 'the deposition of nuclear torpedoes or mines, and thermo-nuclear power generators, by the former Soviet Union in the Mediterranean Sea near the Italian coast in the 1970s'. It was reported that he collaborated with the British University of Greenwich.

Mr Ponomarev had no secretary and therefore kept his own diary, Mr Panevkin said.

Mr Scaramella , who is currently being questioned by investigators in Britain, has denied any involvement in Mr Litvinenko's death.

The reader concludes: "I cannot be certain of its credibility, but I am certain that if it is true, that the Litvinenko affair has depths to it that the press is not beginning to explore yet. I do wonder why that is, and if the UK's Official Secrets Act has anything to do with the press completely scuttling this line of interest."

Meanwhile, it is being reported that Hollywood star Johnny Depp has purchased the rights to film the Litvinenko story based on
Alan Cowell's upcoming book Sasha's Story: The Life and Death of a Russian Spy.

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