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Friday, February 09, 2007

The Beeb on Russian Poisonings

At left, you see a photograph of a scowling Grigori Yavlinksy, leader of the Yabloko opposition party, hodling a photograph of murdered dissident journalist Yuri Shchekochikhin. A British reader tips us that BBC radio has a radio broadcast available in which they investigate the series of political murders to which the Kremlin has been linked. Click here to listen. Here's their print report:

"He complained about fatigue, and red blotches began to appear on his skin. His internal organs began collapsing one by one. Then he lost almost all his hair."

This was how a witness described the mysterious illness which struck down 53 year old Yuri Shchekochikhin, a member of the Russian Duma or parliament, in June 2003. Within 16 days of falling ill Shchekochikhin was dead. And both colleagues and family suspect he was murdered.

The strange illness of Yuri Shchekochikhin is one of a series of deaths investigated in Russia by File on 4 in the wake of the dramatic radiation poisoning of Russian exile Alexander Litvinenko in London last November. The common factor in these deaths is that in each case people close to the victim suspect that either the state or one of its security arms was involved.

Family frustrated

As a journalist Yuri Shchekochikhin was one of Russia's top corruption investigators. His colleagues say family members were told by medical staff that he may have died from "an allergic reaction". But more than three years after his death, his family are said still to be trying to obtain medical records and tissue samples to allow an independent scientific analysis to be done. A friend of Shchekochikhin, Kirill Kabanov, who is a former member of the Federal Security Service, the FSB, was travelling with him shortly before his illness. Kabanov says that among the targets of Shchekochikhin's investigations were very senior people in the FSB and in other state agencies.

He recalls that with no official help, friends of the dead man mounted an independent assessment of the facts they knew. "We had our own investigation of Yuri's death," says Kirill Kabanov. And I personally had to use some of my old contacts from the security services. And the specialist whom I contacted said that with 90% certainty Yuri's case was a poisoning and most likely he was poisoned with thallium."

(Thallium was initially suspected by doctors treating Alexander Litvinenko in London before further tests pinpointed the radioactive substance polonium-210 as the poison.)

Asked why doctors should give other reasons for the death and why samples should be unobtainable, Kirill Kabanov again draws on his secret service knowledge. "Yuri Schekochikhin's treatment and his post-mortem took place at the Central Clinical Hospital. This is the most important clinic in Russia and it's tightly controlled by the Russian Federal Security Service because it treats top-ranking Russian officials."

So could a cover-up have taken place?

"Recently," says Kabanov darkly, "very few people in Russia find the courage to tell the truth."

Bodyguard's death

There are similar suspicions surrounding the death of another man, Roman Tsepov, aged 42, in St Petersburg in September 2004. Tsepov had been running a security agency since the nineties. He had even guarded the man who became Russia's president seven years ago, Vladimir Putin. After a business trip to Moscow Roman Tsepov fell ill and his condition went downhill dramatically, as his physician, Dr Pyotr Pirumov, recalled, in an account given to the agency for Journalistic Investigations in St Petersburg.

"It was poisoning without a poison... It was as if his immune system was switched off." Again in under three weeks after falling ill the patient was dead. No clear cause of death was issued. And when we called Dr Pirumov he seemed nervous about the case and declined to grant an interview. But File on 4 has now learned that a few weeks after Alexander Litvinenko's death, the files on Roman Tsepov were requested from St Petersburg by the General Prosecutor's Office in Moscow and the case is now being handled from there. A claim made by a Moscow investigative journalist, Igor Korolkov, of the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, only deepens the mystery.

Massive contamination

"My source at the prosecutor's office in St Petersburg told me that a post mortem on Roman Tsepov showed he was contaminated with a radioactive element," says Korolkov. "And the quantity of this element in Tsepov's body exceeded the norm by one million times." Suspicions that the state, or its security or armed services could have had a hand in high profile killings are dismissed by the deputy chairman of the Duma security committee, Mikhail Grishankov.

He is a member of the pro-Putin United Russia Party and is also a former member of the FSB. "Russia is now very different from what it was like back in the 1930s and 1940s," says Mikhail Grishankov. And the myths formed in the West back in those times, are a hangover of the Cold War. And this speculation about the alleged connection of the Russian security services - I see it as an attempt to bring these Cold War skeletons back to life!"


Sergej Varsjinskij said...

Q: What's the difference between an ugly rat and a cuddly hampster ?

A: A lot of PR-work and a lot of money.

Mr. Beresovsky has a lot of money and knows quite a few PR-people in London and elsewhere.

Would he invest his money and contacts on the behalf of 'La Russophobe', she would look like 'Mother Rodina' herself and would easily pass for being a charming and good looking Russian tennis champion ;-)

La Russophobe said...

SERGEJ: Vladimir Putin has even more money, and has hired a Western PR firm to fix his image. So I guess he and BB are peas from the same pod. Except that BB doesn't pretend to the be democratically elected leader of a large country.

Sergej Varsjinskij said...

LR wrote: So I guess he and BB are peas from the same pod.

Now this REALLY outs you being definitely ignorant about Russia.

Putin and Beresovsky are foes. Putin drove Beresovsky out of the country. They have absolutely nothing in common.

This comment from you has put a full stop to any benefit of doubt that you could have a little knowledge or idea about what is going on in Russia.

You just committed intellectual suicide. Congrats ! :-)))))))))

La Russophobe said...

They both have lots of money and are engaged in public relations campaigns to alter their public images. They've both accused of being criminal thugs who engage in murder as policy. We'd say that's quite a lot in common.

Who says that people can't be peas from a pod and also enemies? You have the intellectual capacity of a lemon. Bush and Kerry went to the same school and joined the same social society. Yet they were foes. Peter I murdered his own son. It's really amazing how pathetic you are.

And do you really think that ":-)))))))))" is the indication of someone qualified to opine about "intellectual suidice"?

Gosh you're amusing.

Sergej Varsjinskij said...

Yep :-))))

Cyrill said...

Putin and Beresovsky are foes. Putin drove Beresovsky out of the country. They have absolutely nothing in common.

Is the above a list of unrelated statements or an attempt to establish a cause and effect relationship?

Especially considering that the last sentense is so dramatically incorrect, only a stack of smilies might offer a mitigation.

Sergej Varsjinskij said...

LR's clone 'Cyrill' wrote

Is the above a list of unrelated statements or an attempt to establish a cause and effect relationship?

You may want to read 'Vladimir Putin (Biography) by Thomas Streissguth' as well as the biography of Boris Beresovsky AND compare both to the book 'Ambramovich: The billionaire from nowhere' and you will clearly see

a) what Putin thinks of Bersovsky
b) what Beresovsky thinks of Putin
c) that Abramovich confirms the authenticy of both views.

Dream on dear LR while wearing the identity of 'Cyrill the Clown'.

Cyrill said...

Sergei, you are trapped in superficial over substance. It does not matter what Putin or Berezovsky think of each other. I am pretty sure there was no mutual admiration society between Stalin and Hitler, but in substance they were quite similar.

Why would you even quote me if you had no intention of answering a simple question, hiding behind paranoid claims instead? This is only the second time I have an exchange with you here and you already are getting unhinged, while all I did was ask questions.

Is Berezovsky a criminal? By all accounts he was, was Putin a corrupt government official while in St Petersburg - I have no doubt about it since I know people that gave him bribes. When Putin's "деньщик" Igor Sechin hangs out with a bandit like Malyshev, whose gang-run hotel is "coincidentally" located next door to FSB hotel, what does it tell you about Putin and his connections?

Working under Borodin in the Kremlin administration - would anyone be so naive to suggest that among the sea of corruption, some how Putin is untouched by this rot that eats the whole country the whole culture from within?

Berezovsky had never gotten to be what Putin is, so it is quite difficult to extrapolate what would he have done instead. Putin turned Russia into a corporation he and his cronies can loot freely. Berezovsky might have preserved the free for all looting of the 1990-s.

You might be right, now that I think of the possibilities:

a. Would Berezovsky destroy free media or at least crack down on it in a way similar to Putin?
b. Would Berezovsky be nationalizing oil and gas industries create a cartel and place his minions at the top?
c. Would Berezovsky's presidency coincide with a mind boggling spike in corruption?
b. Would Berezovsky neuter the upper chamber of the Parliament, would he take away people's right to elect their governors?

Answers to these questions might shed some light on how different Putin and Berezovsky might be. I am not sure you, Sergei, would like results.

Sergej Varsjinskij said...

LR, I am no longer waisting my time on your multiple appearances. Why don't you just drop being Penny today, Cyrill tomorrow and somebody else the day after tomorrow. There will be no more replies to your fake identities.

So do not longer waste your time. Do you really think that nobody will recognize that LR, Penny and Cyrill constantly have the same IP adresses, originating not only from the same country but also from the the same town ?

Go and play with someone else.

Cyrill said...

Really, same IP? Then put up or shut up, publish IP addresses and ways you obtained them.

Would love to see that since my posts came from at least two different towns using Marriott's various ISP subcontractors.

As it is with most conspiracy theories, this paranoia tells more about yourself and what you yoursel would do. And offers an easy way out from lost arguments.

For someone that claims to be in security business, you seem to be all too eager to take off, duck, cover an hold as soon as going gets tough for your non sequiturs.

As I already told you, follow my name link, then follow links from profile. One leads to my personal blog and radio show.

La Russophobe said...


This is what Russia has come to! It would be funny if it was not so sad. He actually thinks there is only one person in the whole wide world who could possibly disagree with him, and he thinks that person is engaged in a massive conspriracy against him. It's the legacy of the USSR. Severe brain damage and paranoia.

He thinks you and me are the same person. That's just how clueless he is.

No wonder they're losing 1 million people ever year. THIS is the type who casts his vote for a proud KGB spy!