Alexander Litvinenko
Александр Литвиненко
Allegiance Soviet Union 20px
Service KGB, FSB

Born 30 August or 4 December 1962
Died 23 November 2006 (aged 43 or 44)
Cause of
Radiation poisoning
Nationality Russian, British (2006-his death)
Religion Sunni Islam (formerly Russian Orthodoxy)

Alexander Valterovich Litvinenko (Template:Lang-ru) (30 August 1962[1][2] (4 December 1962 by father's account),[3] – 23 November 2006) was an officer who served in the Soviet KGB and its Russian successor, the Federal Security Service (FSB). In November 1998, Litvinenko and several other FSB officers publicly accused their superiors of ordering the assassination of Russian tycoon and oligarch Boris Berezovsky. Litvinenko was arrested the following March on charges of exceeding the authority of his position. He was acquitted in November 1999 but re-arrested before the charges were again dismissed in 2000. He fled with his family to London and was granted asylum in the United Kingdom, where he became a journalist and writer and worked as a consultant for the British intelligence services MI6 and MI5.

During his time in London Litvinenko wrote two books, Blowing Up Russia: Terror from Within and Lubyanka Criminal Group, wherein he accused Russian secret services of staging the Russian apartment bombings and other terrorism acts in an effort to bring Vladimir Putin to power. He also accused Putin of ordering the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

On 1 November 2006 Litvinenko suddenly fell ill and was hospitalised in what was established as a case of poisoning by radioactive polonium-210 which resulted in his death on 23 November. The events leading up to this are a matter of controversy, spawning numerous theories relating to his poisoning and death. The British investigation into his death resulted in a failed request to Russia for the extradition of Andrey Lugovoy whom they accused of Litvinenko's murder, contributing to the further cooling of Russia–United Kingdom relations. Britain demanded that Lugovoy be extracted without handing Russia any evidence related to the case. Lugovoy passed lie detector test, denying the accusations.[4]

After Litvinenko's death his widow Marina pursued a vigorous campaign on behalf of her husband through Litvinenko Justice Foundation. In October 2011, she won the right for a full public inquest into Litvinenko's death to be conducted by a coroner in London.

Early life and career[edit | edit source]

Alexander Litvinenko was born in the Russian city of Voronezh in 1962.[5] After he graduated from a Nalchik secondary school in 1980 he was drafted into the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs as a Private. After a year of service, he matriculated in the Kirov Higher Command School in Vladikavkaz. In 1981, Litvinenko married Nataliya, an accountant, with whom he had a son, Alexander, and a daughter, Sonia. This marriage would later end in divorce in 1994 and in the same year Litvinenko married Marina, a ballroom dancer and fitness instructor, with whom he had a son, Anatoly.[6] After graduation in 1985, Litvinenko became a platoon commander in the Dzerzhinsky Division of the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs. He was assigned to the 4th Company, where among his duties was the protection of valuable cargo while in transit.[1][7][8] In 1986 he became an informant when he was recruited by the MVD's KGB counterintelligence section and in 1988 he was officially transferred to the Third Chief Directorate of the KGB, Military Counter Intelligence.[7] Later that year, after studying for a year at the Novosibirsk Military Counter Intelligence School, he became an operational officer and served in KGB military counterintelligence until 1991.[7][9]

Career in Russian security services[edit | edit source]

In 1991, Litvinenko was promoted to the Central Staff of the Federal Counterintelligence Service, specialising in counter-terrorist activities and infiltration of organised crime. He was awarded the title of "MUR veteran" for operations conducted with the Moscow criminal investigation department, the MUR.[10] Litvinenko also saw active military service in many of the so-called "hot spots" of the former USSR and Russia.[11] During the First Chechen War Litvinenko planted several FSB agents in Chechnya. Although he was often reported in western media as being a spy, throughout his career he was not an 'intelligence agent' and did not deal with secrets beyond information on operations against organised criminal groups.[7][12][13][14]

Litvinenko met Boris Berezovsky in 1994 when he took part in investigations into an assassination attempt on the oligarch. He later began to moonlight for Berezovsky and was responsible for the oligarch's security.[2][7] Litvinenko's employment under Berezovsky and other security services personnel was illegal, but the state somewhat tolerated it in order to retain staff who were at the time underpaid.[2][7] Thus, Litvinenko's employment for the controversial businessman and others was not investigated. Often such inquiries in Russia were selective and targeted only at those who had stepped out of line.[7]

In 1997, Litvinenko was promoted to the FSB Directorate of Analysis and Suppression of Criminal Groups, with the title of senior operational officer and deputy head of the Seventh Section.[15] According to Dimitri Simes, the Directorate was viewed as much as a part of organised crime as it was of law enforcement.[16]

Claims against FSB leadership[edit | edit source]

According to Litvinenko's widow Marina, while her husband was employed in the FSB he discovered numerous links among members of the top brass of Russian law enforcement agencies and Russian mafia groups, such as the Solntsevo gang. Berezovsky arranged a meeting for him with FSB Director Mikhail Barsukov and Deputy Director of Internal affairs Ovchinnikov to discuss the alleged corruption problems, with no result. This lead him to the conclusion that the entire system was corrupt.[17]

In December 1997 Litvinenko claimed he received an order to kill Berezovsky. He did not inform his part-time employer until 20 March 1998.[7][18] According to his widow, on 25 July 1998, the day on which Vladimir Putin replaced Nikolay Kovalyov as the Director of the Federal Security Service, Berezovsky introduced Litvinenko to Putin. Berezovsky claimed that he had helped Putin to take the Director's position.[19] According to his widow, Litvinenko reported to Putin on corruption in the FSB, but Putin was unimpressed.[19] According to Litvinenko, Putin was involved with a corrupt military general in the Russian army when Putin was a Deputy for Economic Affairs to the Mayor of St. Petersburg. Litvenenko was doing an investigation into the general and Uzbek drug barons and believed that Putin tried to stall the investigation in order to save his reputation.[20]

On 13 November 1998 Berezovsky wrote an open letter to Putin in Kommersant. He accused heads of the Directorate of Analysis and Suppression of Criminal Groups Major-General Yevgeny Khokholkov, N. Stepanov, A. Kamyshnikov, N. Yenin of ordering his assassination.[21]

Four days later Litvinenko and four other officers appeared together in a press conference at the Russian news agency Interfax. All officers worked for both FSB in the Directorate of Analysis and Suppression of Criminal Groups and for Boris Berezovsky.[7] They repeated the allegation made by Berezovsky.[7][18] The officers also claimed they were ordered to kill Mikhail Trepashkin who was also present at the press conference, and to kidnap a brother of the businessman Umar Dzhabrailov.[18]

In 2007, Sergey Dorenko provided The Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal with a complete copy of an April 1998 interview he conducted for ORT television station with Litvinenko and his fellow employees. The interview, of which only excerpts were shown in 1998, shows the FSB officers, who were disguised in masks or dark glasses, claim that their bosses had ordered them to kill, kidnap or frame prominent Russian politicians and businesspeople.

Jim Heintz of The Associated Press opined that although Berezovsky does not appear in the interview, he has an omnipresence in it, given that the officers worked for him, and the interview was taped by Dorenko, a Russian journalist who was an employee of ORT owned in part by Berezovsky.[22]

Dismissal from the FSB[edit | edit source]

After holding the press conference, Litvinenko was dismissed from the FSB.[23] Later, in an interview with Yelena Tregubova, Putin said that he personally ordered the dismissal of Litvinenko, stating "I fired Litvinenko and disbanded his unit ...because FSB officers should not stage press conferences. This is not their job. And they should not make internal scandals public."[24] Litvinenko also believed that Putin was behind his arrest. He said: "Putin had the power to decide whether to pass my file to the prosecutors or not. He always hated me. And there was a bonus for him: by throwing me to the wolves he distanced himself from Boris [Berezovsky] in the eyes of FSB's generals."[25]

Flight from Russia and asylum in the United Kingdom[edit | edit source]

In October 2000, in violation of an order not to leave Moscow, Litvinenko and his family traveled to Turkey, possibly via the Ukraine.[26] While in Turkey, Litvinenko applied for asylum at the United States Embassy in Ankara, but his application was denied.[26] Henry Plater-Zyberk opined that the denial may have been based on possible American opinions that Litvinenko's knowledge was of little benefit and that he might create problems.[7] With the help of Alexander Goldfarb, Litvinenko bought air tickets for the Istanbul-London-Moscow flight,[27] and asked for political asylum at Heathrow Airport during the transit stop on 1 November 2000.[28] Political asylum was granted on 14 May 2001,[29] not because of his knowledge on intelligence matters, but rather on humanitarian grounds.[7] While in London he became a journalist for the separatist Chechenpress and a controversial author. He also joined Berezovsky in campaigning against Putin's government.[30][31] In October 2006 he became a naturalised British citizen with residence in Whitehaven.[32]

Cooperation with MI6[edit | edit source]

On 27 October 2007, the Daily Mail, citing "diplomatic and intelligence sources," stated that Mr Litvinenko was paid about £2,000 per month by MI6 at the time of his murder. John Scarlett, the head of MI6 (who was once based in Moscow), was allegedly personally involved in recruiting him.[13] The Independent stated that whilst cooperation of Litvinenko with MI6 will likely never be confirmed, a MI6 retainer for Litvinenko suggests systematic cooperation, because MI6 usually makes irregular payments to exiles in exchange for information.[33]

Litvinenko's widow Marina Litvinenko has admitted that her husband co-operated with the British MI6 and MI5, working as a consultant and helping the agencies to combat Russian organized crime in Europe.[34][35]

In February 2012, Litvinenko's father Valter apologized for what he called his personal "slander campaign" against the Russian government. Before the confession by Marina Litvinenko, he had publicly blamed the Russian security services for his son's death. In an interview Valter Litvinenko said that if he had known at the time that his son was a British intelligence agent, he would not have made such accusations.[36]

Alleged threats against Litvinenko[edit | edit source]

Former FSB officer Mikhail Trepashkin stated that in 2002 he had warned Litvinenko that an FSB unit was assigned to assassinate him.[37] In spite of this, Litvinenko often travelled overseas with no security arrangements, and freely mingled with the Russian community in the United Kingdom, and often received journalists at his home.[7][38] In January 2007, Polish newspaper Dziennik revealed that a target with a photo of Litvinenko on it was used for shooting practice by the Vityaz Training Centre in Balashikha in October 2002.[39] The centre run by Sergey Lyusyuk is not affiliated with the government, and trains bodyguards, debt collectors and private security forces,[40] although in November 2006 the centre was used by the Vityaz for a qualification examination due to their own centre being under renovation.[40] The targets, which Lyusyuk says were bought in the Olympic Market, were also photographed when the chairman of the Federation Council of Russia Sergei Mironov visited the centre and met Lyusyuk on 7 November 2006.[39][40] When asked why the photographs of Mironov's visit were removed from the centre's website Lyusyuk stated "(t)hose Poles are up to something" and added that Mironov didn't see the targets and knew nothing about them.[40]

Alleged blackmail activities[edit | edit source]

According to Julia Svetlichnaya, a Russian doctoral candidate at the University of Westminster's Center for the Study of Democracy, Litvinenko told her that he was planning to blackmail or sell sensitive information on a wide range of people, including oligarchs, allegedly corrupt official and figures within the Kremlin hierarchy, in which he would extort £10,000 per instance to have him stop publication of alleged documents. Svetlichnaya noted that Litvinenko didn't have a steady income and was certain he could obtain the necessary files for this purpose.[41] According to The Observer, Litvinenko's alleged threats and access to FSB materials might have turned him into an enemy of big business and the Kremlin.[41]

Conviction in Russia[edit | edit source]

In 2002 Litvinenko was convicted in absentia in Russia and given a three and a half year jail sentence for charges of corruption.[42][43]

Allegations[edit | edit source]

Template:Unbalanced section Litvinenko told anyone who would listen about his theories relating to the power structures in Russia, and would bombard his contacts with information relating to his conspiracy theories.[7][38][44] In a report for the Conflict Studies Research Centre, Henry Plater-Zyberk, a lecturer at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom and Russian politics expert, described Litvinenko as a one-man disinformation bureau, who was at first guided by Berezovsky but later in possible pursuit of attention for himself. Plater-Zyberk notes that Litvinenko made numerous accusations without presenting any evidence to give credence to his claims, and these claims which became increasingly outlandish were often accepted by the British media without question.[7] According to Michael Mainville, Litvinenko knew the secret to a conspiracy theory is that they are based upon an absence of proof, and that the more outlandish the claim, the harder it is to disprove.[44] This has led to some political analysts dismissing his claims as those of a fantasist.[41]

Armenian parliament shooting[edit | edit source]

Main article: 1999 Armenian parliament shooting

Litvinenko accused the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General-Staff of the Russian armed forces had organised the 1999 Armenian parliament shooting that killed Prime Minister of Armenia Vazgen Sargsyan and seven members of parliament, ostensibly to derail the peace process which would have resolved the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but he offered no evidence to support the accusation.[7][45][46] The Russian embassy in Armenia denied any such involvement, and described Litvinenko's accusation as an attempt to harm relations between Armenia and Russia by people against the democratic reforms in Russia.[47]

Russian apartment bombings[edit | edit source]

Main article: Russian apartment bombings

Litvinenko alleged that agents from the FSB coordinated the 1999 Russian apartment bombings that killed more than 300 people, whereas Russian officials blamed the explosions on Chechen separatists. This version of events was suggested earlier by David Satter,.[48]

Moscow theatre hostage crisis[edit | edit source]

Main article: Moscow theatre hostage crisis

In a 2003 interview with the Australian SBS TV network, and aired on Dateline, Litvinenko claimed that two of the Chechen terrorists involved in the 2002 Moscow theatre siege — whom he named as "Abdul the Bloody" and "Abu Bakar" — were working for the FSB, and that the agency manipulated the rebels into staging the attack.[49] Litvinenko said: "[w]hen they tried to find [Abdul the Bloody and Abu Bakar] among the dead terrorists, they weren't there. The FSB got its agents out. So the FSB agents among Chechens organized the whole thing on FSB orders, and those agents were released." This echoed similar claims made by Mikhail Trepashkin.[50] The leading role of an FSB agent Khanpasha Terkibaev (the "Abu Bakar") was also described by Anna Politkovskaya, Ivan Rybkin and Alexander Khinshtein.[51][52][53][54] In the beginning of April 2003 Litvinenko gave "the Terkibaev file" to Sergei Yushenkov when he visited London, who in turn passed it to Anna Politkovskaya.[24] A few days later Yushenkov was assassinated. Terkibaev was later killed in Chechnya. According to speaker of Russian State Duma Ivan Rybkin, "The authorities failed to keep [the FSB agent] Terkibaev out of public view, and that is why he was killed. I know how angry people were, because they knew Terkibaev had authorization from presidential administration."[55]

Beslan school hostage crisis[edit | edit source]

Main article: Beslan school hostage crisis#Conspiracy Theories

Alexander Litvinenko suggested in September 2004 that the Russian secret services must have been aware of the plot beforehand, and therefore that they must have themselves organized the attack as a false flag operation. He spoke in an interview before his death with Chechenpress news agency, and said that because the hostage takers had previously been in FSB custody for committing terrorist attacks, it is inconceivable that they would have been released and still been able to carry out attacks independently. He said that they would only have been freed if they were of use to the FSB, and that even in the case that they were freed without being turned into FSB assets, they would be under a strict surveillance regime that would not have allowed them to carry out the Beslan attack unnoticed.[56] Ella Kesayeva, co-chair of the group Voice of Beslan, formalized Litvinenko's argument in a November 2008 article in Novaya Gazeta, noting the large number of hostage takers who were in government custody not long before attacking the school, and coming to the same conclusion that Beslan was a false flag attack.[57]

Support of terrorism worldwide by the KGB and FSB[edit | edit source]

Litvinenko stated that "all the bloodiest terrorists of the world" were connected to FSB-KGB, including Carlos "The Jackal" Ramírez, Yassir Arafat, Saddam Hussein, Abdullah Öcalan, Wadie Haddad of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, George Hawi who led the Communist Party of Lebanon, Ezekias Papaioannou from Cyprus, Sean Garland from Ireland and many others." He says that all of them were trained, funded, and provided with weapons, explosives and counterfeit documents in order to carry out terrorist attacks worldwide and that each act of terrorism made by these people was carried out according to the task and under the rigid control of the KGB of the USSR.[58] Litvinenko said that "the center of global terrorism is not in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan or the Chechen Republic. The terrorism infection creeps away worldwide from the cabinets of the Lubyanka Square and the Kremlin".[59][60]

Alleged Russia-al-Qaeda connection[edit | edit source]

In a July 2005 interview with the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita, Litvinenko alleged that Ayman al-Zawahiri, a prominent leader of al-Qaeda, was trained for half of a year by the FSB in Dagestan in 1997 and called him "an old agent of the FSB".[58][61] Litvinenko said that after this training, al-Zawahiri "was transferred to Afghanistan, where he had never been before and where, following the recommendation of his Lubyanka chiefs, he at once ... penetrated the milieu of Osama bin Laden and soon became his assistant in Al Qaeda."[62] Former KGB officer and writer Konstantin Preobrazhenskiy supported this claim and said that Litvinenko "was responsible for securing the secrecy of Al-Zawahiri's arrival in Russia; he was trained by FSB instructors in Dagestan, Northern Caucasus, in 1996–1997.".[63] He said: "At that time, Litvinenko was the Head of the Subdivision for Internationally Wanted Terrorists of the First Department of the Operative-Inquiry Directorate of the FSB Anti-Terrorist Department. He was ordered to undertake the delicate mission of securing Al-Zawahiri from unintentional disclosure by the Russian police. Though Al-Zawahiri had been brought to Russia by the FSB using a false passport, it was still possible for the police to learn about his arrival and report to Moscow for verification. Such a process could disclose Al-Zawahiri as an FSB collaborator. In order to prevent this, Litvinenko visited a group of the highly placed police officers to notify them in advance." According to FSB spokesman Sergei Ignatchenko, al-Zawahiri was arrested by Russian authorities in Dagestan in December 1996 and released in May 1997.[64]

When asked in an interview who he thought the originator of the 2005 bombings in London was, Litvinenko responded saying[58] "You know, I have spoken about it earlier and I shall say now, that I know only one organization, which has made terrorism the main tool of solving of political problems. It is the Russian special services."

On 1 September 2005, al-Zawahiri and Mohammad Sidique Khan claimed responsibility for the attacks for Al Qaeda on a video tape which aired on al-Jazeera.[65]

Danish cartoon controversy[edit | edit source]

According to Litvinenko, the 2005 controversy over the publication in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten of editorial cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad was orchestrated by the FSB to punish Denmark for its refusal to extradite Chechen separatists.[44]

Assassination of Anna Politkovskaya[edit | edit source]

Main article: Anna Politkovskaya assassination

Two weeks before his poisoning, Alexander Litvinenko accused Vladimir Putin of ordering the assassination of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya and stated that a former presidential candidate Irina Hakamada warned Politkovskaya about threats to her life coming from the Russian president. Litvinenko advised Politkovskaya to escape from Russia immediately. Hakamada denied her involvement in passing any specific threats, and said that she warned Politkovskaya only in general terms more than a year ago.[66] It remains unclear if Litvinenko referred to an earlier statement made by Boris Berezovsky who claimed that former Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Boris Nemtsov received word from Hakamada that Putin threatened her and like-minded colleagues in person. According to Berezovsky, Putin uttered that Hakamada and her colleagues "will take in the head immediately, literally, not figuratively" if they "open the mouth" about the Russian apartment bombings.[67]

Allegations concerning Romano Prodi[edit | edit source]

Main article: Italian Mitrokhin Commission

According to Litvinenko, FSB deputy chief, General Anatoly Trofimov said to him "Don’t go to Italy, there are many KGB agents among the politicians. Romano Prodi is our man there",[68][69] meaning Romano Prodi, the Italian centre-left leader, former Prime Minister of Italy and former President of the European Commission. The conversation with Trofimov took place in 2000, after the Prodi-KGB scandal broke out in October 1999 due to information about Prodi provided by Vasili Mitrokhin.[19]

In April 2006, a British Member of the European Parliament for London, Gerard Batten of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) demanded an inquiry into the allegations.[68][69] According to Brussels-based newspaper, the EU Reporter on 3 April 2006, "another high-level source, a former KGB operative in London, has confirmed the story".[70] On 26 April 2006, Batten repeated his call for a parliamentary inquiry, revealing that "former, senior members of the KGB are willing to testify in such an investigation, under the right conditions." He added, "It is not acceptable that this situation is unresolved, given the importance of Russia's relations with the European Union."[71] On 22 January 2007, the BBC and ITV News released documents and video footage, from February 2006, in which Litvinenko repeated his statements about Prodi.[72][73]

A report by the Conflict Studies Research Centre of the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom from May 2007 noted that Trofimov was never the head of the FSB, which did not oversee intelligence operations, had never worked in the intelligence directorate of the KGB or its successor the SVR, nor had he worked in the counterintelligence department of the intelligence services, nor had he ever worked in Italy, making it difficult to understand how Trofimov would have had knowledge about such a recruitment. Henry Plater-Zyberk, the co-author of the report suggested that Trofimov was "conveniently dead", so "could neither confirm nor deny the story", and noted Litvinenko's history of making accusations without evidence to back them up.[7]

Cooperation with Spanish authorities[edit | edit source]

Shortly before his death Litvinenko tipped off Spanish authorities on several organised crime bosses with links to Spain. During a meeting in May 2006 he allegedly provided security officials with information on the locations, roles, and activities of several "Russian" mafia figures with ties to Spain, including Izguilov, Zahkar Kalashov, and Tariel Oniani.[74]

Other allegations[edit | edit source]

In his book Gang from Lubyanka, Litvinenko alleged that Vladimir Putin during his time at the FSB was personally involved in protecting the drug trafficking from Afghanistan organized by Abdul Rashid Dostum.[75] In December 2003 Russian authorities confiscated over 4000 copies of the book.[76]

Litvinenko commented on a new law that "Russia has the right to carry out preemptive strikes on militant bases abroad" and explained that these "preemptive strikes may involve anything, except nuclear weapons," Litvinenko said that "You know who they mean when they say 'terrorist bases abroad'? They mean us, Zakayev and Boris, and me.".[24] He also said that "It was considered in our service that poison is an easier weapon than a pistol." He referred to a secret laboratory in Moscow that still continues development of deadly poisons, according to him.[77]

In an article written by Litvinenko in July 2006, and published online on Zakayev's Chechenpress website, he claimed that Vladimir Putin is a paedophile.[78] Litvinenko also claimed that Anatoly Trofimov and Artyom Borovik knew of the alleged paedophilia.[79] The claims have been called "wild",[38] and "sensational and unsubstantiated"[80] in the British media. Litvinenko made the allegation after Putin kissed a boy on his belly while stopping to chat with some tourists during a walk in the Kremlin grounds on 28 June 2006.[80] The incident was recalled in a webcast organised by the BBC and Yandex, in which over 11,000 people asked Putin to explain the act, to which he responded, "He seemed very independent and serious... I wanted to cuddle him like a kitten and it came out in this gesture. He seemed so nice...There is nothing behind it."[81] It has been suggested that the incident was a "clumsy attempt" to soften Putin's image in the lead-up the 32nd G8 Summit which was held in Saint Petersburg in July 2006.[80]

Poisoning and death[edit | edit source]

Main article: Alexander Litvinenko poisoning

Alexander Litvinenko at University College Hospital

On 1 November 2006, Litvinenko suddenly fell ill and was hospitalised. His illness was later attributed to poisoning with radionuclide polonium-210 after the Health Protection Agency found significant amounts of the rare and highly toxic element in his body. However, the London coroner never attributed the cause of death to polonium.[82][83] In interviews, Litvinenko stated that he met with two former KGB agents early on the day he fell ill – Dmitry Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoi. Though both denied any wrongdoing, a leaked US diplomatic cable revealed that Kovtun had left Polonium traces in the house and car he had used in Hamburg.[84] The men also introduced Litvinenko to a tall, thin man of central Asian appearance called 'Vladislav Sokolenko' who Lugovoi said was a business partner. Lugovoi is also a former bodyguard of Russian ex-Acting Prime minister Yegor Gaidar (who also suffered from a mysterious illness in November 2006). Later, he had lunch at Itsu, a sushi restaurant in Piccadilly in London, with an Italian acquaintance and nuclear waste expert, Mario Scaramella, to whom he made the allegations regarding Italy's Prime Minister Romano Prodi.[85] Scaramella, attached to the Mitrokhin Commission investigating KGB penetration of Italian politics, claimed to have information on the assassination of Anna Politkovskaya, 48, a journalist who was killed at her Moscow apartment in October 2006. In Litvinenko's last known public statement, he indicated that he believed it was Scaramella who poisoned him.[86]

Marina Litvinenko, widow of the deceased, accused Moscow of orchestrating the murder. Though she believes the order did not come from Putin himself, she does believe it was done at the behest of the authorities, and announced that she will refuse to provide evidence to any Russian investigation out of fear that it would be misused or misrepresented.[87]

Conversion to Islam[edit | edit source]

Two days before his death Litvinenko informed his father that he had converted to Islam. Litvinenko's conversion to Islam and the related wish for Muslim funeral rites were recognized by his father. Goldfarb stated, "Unfortunately some people appeared and against the explicit wishes of the widow performed Muslim rites over the funeral. We had a choice to turn it into an unseemly situation, but Marina asked us to respect the memory of Alexander and let these people do what they did. Let God be their judge." Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, head of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, contended that Litvineko actually converted to Islam 10 days before he was poisoned.[88][89][90] Akhmed Zakayev, Foreign Minister of Chechen government-in-exile who lived next door to Mr Litvinenko and considered him "like a brother,"[91] said: "He was read to from the Qur'an the day before he died and had told his wife and family that he wanted to be buried in accordance with Muslim tradition."[92] The ceremony was followed by a private memorial at which the ensemble Tonus Peregrinus sang sacred music by Russian composers Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Rachmaninov, Victor Kalinnikov, and three works by British composer Antony Pitts.[93]

Death and last statement[edit | edit source]

On 22 November Litvinenko's medical staff at University College Hospital reported he had suffered a "major setback" due to either heart failure or an overnight heart attack. He died on 23 November. Scotland Yard stated that inquiries into the circumstances of how Litvinenko became ill would continue.[94]

On 24 November a posthumous statement was released, in which Litvinenko directly accused Vladimir Putin of poisoning him. Litvinenko's friend Alex Goldfarb, who is also the chairman of Boris Berezovsky's Civil Liberties Fund, claimed Litvinenko had dictated it to him three days earlier. Andrei Nekrasov said his friend Litvinenko and Litvinenko's lawyer composed the statement in Russian on 21 November and translated it to English.[95]

Putin disputed the authenticity of this note while attending a Russia-EU summit in Helsinki and claimed it was being used for political purposes.[96][97] William Dunkerley, in a briefing from May 2007 for a round table which discussed Litvinenko's case and the way it was handled by the Russian and Western media, called into question the authenticity of the statement, noting that the statement did not read like a statement made on one's deathbed and was typed in English, a language which Litvinenko was far from proficient in, with the signature and date handwritten.[30] Goldfarb later stated that Litvinenko instructed him to write a note "in good English" in which Putin was to be accused of his poisoning. Goldfarb also stated that he read the note to Litvinenko in English and Russian, to which he claims Litvinenko agreed "with every word of it" and signed it.[98][99] Thus, there are three conflicting media claims regarding who authored Litvinenko's deathbed statement: (1) it was dictated by Litvinenko himself, (2) it was composed by Litvinenko's lawyer, and (3) it was written by Alexander Goldfarb.


Grave of Alexander Litvinenko at Highgate Cemetery

His autopsy took place on 1 December at the Royal London Hospital's institute of pathology. It was attended by three physicians, including one chosen by the family and one from the Foreign Office.[100] Litvinenko was buried at Highgate Cemetery (West side) in north London on 7 December.[101] The police are treating his death as murder, although the London coroner has never ruled it a homicide.[102][103] On 25 November, two days after Litvinenko's death, an article attributed to him was published by The Mail on Sunday entitled "Why I believe Putin wanted me dead".[104]

In an interview with the BBC broadcast on 16 December 2006, Yuri Shvets said that Litvinenko had created a 'due diligence' report investigating the activities of a senior Kremlin official on behalf of a British company looking to invest "dozens of millions of dollars" in a project in Russia. He said the dossier was so incriminating about the senior Kremlin official, who was not named, it was likely that Litvinenko was murdered out of spite. He alleged that Litvinenko had shown the dossier to another business associate, Andrei Lugovoi, who had worked for the KGB and later the FSB. Shvets alleged that Lugovoi is still an FSB informant and he had spread copies of the dossier to members of the spy service. He said he was interviewed about his allegations by Scotland Yard detectives investigating Litvinenko's murder. Shvets has also doubted Litvinenko's capacity to perform honest unbiased due diligence.[105] British media reported that the poisoning and consequent death of Litvinenko was not widely covered in the Russian news media.[106] Other authors, including William Dunkerley of American University in Moscow, have called these reports into question.[82]

According to Mary Dejevsky, the chief editorial writer of The Independent, the view that the British public had of Litvinenko's illness and death was essentially dictated by Berezovsky, who funded an expertly conducted publicity campaign.[82][107]

Theories and investigations into death[edit | edit source]

Main article: Litvinenko assassination theories

UK criminal investigation[edit | edit source]

On 20 January 2007 British police announced that they have "identified the man they believe poisoned Alexander Litvinenko. The suspected killer was captured on cameras at Heathrow as he flew into Britain to carry out the murder."[108] The man in question was introduced to Litvinenko as 'Vladislav'.

As of 26 January 2007, British officials said police had solved the murder of Litvinenko. They discovered "a 'hot' teapot at London's Millennium Hotel with an off-the-charts reading for polonium-210, the radioactive material used in the killing." In addition, a senior official said investigators had concluded the murder of Litvinenko was "a 'state-sponsored' assassination orchestrated by Russian security services." The police want to charge former Russian spy Andrei Lugovoi, who met with Litvinenko on 1 November 2006, the day officials believe the lethal dose of polonium-210 was administered. [109]

On the same day, The Guardian reported that the British government was preparing an extradition request asking that Andrei Lugovoi be returned to the UK to stand trial for Litvinenko's murder.[110] On 22 May 2007 the Crown Prosecution Service called for the extradition of Russian citizen Andrei Lugovoi to the UK on charges of murder. [111] Lugovoi dismissed the claims against him as "politically motivated" and said he did not kill Litvinenko. [112]

A British police investigation resulted in several suspects for the murder, but in May 2007, the British Director of Public Prosecutions, Ken Macdonald, announced that his government would seek to extradite Andrei Lugovoi, the chief suspect of the case, from Russia. [113] On 28 May 2007, the British Foreign Office officially submitted a request to the Government of Russia for the extradition of Lugovoi to face criminal charges in the UK. [114]

On 2 October 2011, The Sunday Times published an article wherein the chief prosecutor who investigated the murder of Litvinenko, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, publicly spoke of his suspicion that the murder was a "state directed execution" carried out by Russia. Until that time, British public officials had stopped short of directly accusing Russia of involvement in the poisoning. "It had all the hallmarks of a state directed execution, committed on the streets of London by a foreign government," Macdonald added.[115]

Russian criminal investigation[edit | edit source]

Many publications in Russian media suggested that the death of Alexander Litvinenko was connected to Boris Berezovsky.[116][117] Former FSB chief Nikolay Kovalyov, for whom Litvinenko worked, said that the incident "looks like the hand of Boris Berezovsky. I am sure that no kind of intelligence services participated."[118] This involvement of Berezovsky was alleged by numerous Russian television shows. Kremlin supporters saw it as a conspiracy to smear Russian government's reputation by engineering a spectacular murder of a Russian dissident abroad.[119]

After Litvinenko's death, traces of polonium-210 were found in an office of Berezovsky.[120] Litvinenko had visited Berezovsky's office as well as many other places in the hours after his poisoning.[121] The British Health Protection Agency made extensive efforts to ensure that locations Litvinenko visited and anyone who had contact with Litvinenko after his poisoning, were not at risk.[122]

Russian prosecutors were not allowed to investigate the office.[123] Russian authorities have also been unable to question Berezovsky. The Foreign Ministry complained that Britain was obstructing its attempt to send prosecutors to London to interview more than 100 people, including Berezovsky.[124]

On 5 July 2007, Russia officially declined to extradite Lugovoi, citing that extradition of citizens is not allowed under the Russian constitution. Russia has said that they could take on the case themselves if Britain provided evidence against Lugovoi but Britain has not handed over any evidence. The head of the investigating committee at the General Prosecutor's Office said Russia has not yet received any evidence from Britain on Lugovoi. "We have not received any evidence from London of Lugovoi's guilt, and those documents we have are full of blank spaces and contradictions.[125] However the British ambassador to Russia, Anne Pringle, claimed that London has already submitted sufficient evidence to extradite him to Britain.[126]

In the documentary film "Lugovoy, pervy podozrevaemy" [Lugovoy, the first suspected] about Andrey Lugovoy, suspected to be the killer of Alexandre Litvinenko, Vladimir Pozner makes important statements, such as: KGB-agents were took for heroes in the Soviet Union, like James Bond in England.[127]

Judicial Inquiries[edit | edit source]

Inquest in London[edit | edit source]

On 13 October 2011 Dr. Andrew Reed, the Coroner of St. Pancras announced that he will hold a full public inquest into Litvinenko's death, which will include the examination of all existing theories of the murder, including possible complicity of Russian government.[128]

Litvinenko vs Russian Federation in Strasbourg[edit | edit source]

In May 2007 Marina Litvinenko registered a complaint against Russian Federation in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg accusing RF of violating her husband's right to life, and failing to conduct full investigation.[129]

References in popular culture[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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His books[edit | edit source]

Books and Films about him[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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