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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

On the Trail of Mr. X

In February 2004, former Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev was murdered by Russian agents in Quatar. In July, Andrew McGregor of the Jamestown Foundation wrote:

The Yandarbiyev case is an important milestone in the renegade approach to the War on Terrorism. The boldness with which Russia carried out its operation in the midst of sensitive U.S. military installations suggests that America may have acquired a "rogue-partner" in the war on terror.
Given this, we shouldn't have been surprised, when Alexander Litvinenko was struck down on foreign soil last year, to learn that there could be Kremlin connections to the killing. On December 17th, the Times of London reported the following:

Yuri Shvets, a former [KGB] spy now based in America, claims [Alexander] Litvinenko had been doing due diligence work for a British company on the official, who was facilitating a business deal. Shvets believes Litvinenko had acquired a damaging eight-page dossier with details on the official that may have ruined a multi-million-pound deal with the British company. The claims shed new light on the activities of Litvinenko, who died on November 23 after being poisoned with polonium-210, a radioactive substance. His death has been the subject of several theories, including claims that he was murdered in a Kremlin plot to silence his criticism of Vladimir Putin’s regime. Shvets is a former KGB major who now works from Washington, advising businesses on corruption and security in the former Soviet Union. He has been interviewed by detectives from Scotland Yard. He gave his first full interview last week to his friend Tom Mangold, a journalist, in a programme for BBC Radio 4. Shvets says Litvinenko came to him for help after a British security company had offered him a $100,000 contract to do due diligence work on five Russian figures. One of the five, whom Shvets refused to name, is said to be a powerful Kremlin official. Litvinenko acquired the eight-page dossier on September 20. Shvets says Litvinenko showed the dossier to Andrei Lugovoi, another former Russian agent, two weeks later. This, Shvets believes, was a mistake because he claims Lugovoi probably tipped off the official about the dossier. “I believe the dossier was the trigger for the assassination,” he said. Lugovoi met Litvinenko at the Millennium hotel in London on November 1, the suspected day of the poisoning. Lugovoi has denied any involvement in the murder and is himself contaminated with polonium. Scotland Yard detectives were present at interviews with Lugovoi and others during a visit to Moscow last week. The British officers were not allowed to put any questions, however. Russian prosecutors conducted the interview.

LR's sources tell her that there was more to the Radio 4 broadcast than was been reported by the Times. They say that a former KGB agent, whose interview with the programme was substituted by the voice of an actor, stated that Lugovoi is an FSB informant, that the use of three agents to carry out the assassination is a standard KGB format, and that in Russia there is now a "shadow establishment" within the power structures with links with organised crime -- extortion, racketeering, murder and blackmail -- of which Putin is perfectly aware but impotent to act upon, since the FSB has taken all the power that was formerly in the hands of the communist party.

Last Friday, LR reported that she had been told by a reader about a recent broadcast on BBC Newsnight which reported that the "unnamed" figure (shall we call him "Mr. X"?) could be Aeroflot chief (and former KGB spy) Victor Ivanov (pictured left, on the right, acting as "presidential aid" two years ago), a not insignificant figure in the Kremlin's power structure. Now, another reader has provided further details. Apparently, a British firm called Titon International may have hired Litvinenko to perform a due diligence investigation of Ivanov prior to Titon's client commencing a major transaction with Aeroflot, and when the dossier turned over by Litvinenko turned up dirt on Ivanov, the deal was queered. Litvinenko then showed the dossier to Lugovoi, a Kremlin double agent who turned the material over to Ivanov, resulting in the Kremlin-connected oligarch deciding to strike down Litvinenko. Apparently, they were motivated not only by the lost value of the deal, but even more importantly by the information contained in the dossier and the possiblity of future such outbreaks of information (which might expose high-level corruption). Obviously, the firm that hired Titon is in a position to say whether it received a dossier from Titon on Ivanov and whether it queered a deal with Aeroflot or not. Apparently, so far Titon is not revealing the name of its client.

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