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The Case of the Radioactive Russian


"When you have eliminated the impossible, that which remains, however improbable, must be the truth." -- Sherlock Holmes He began as a Russian, was poisoned with polonium 210, and died an expatriate Russian spy in London. He converted to Islam shortly before his death. He was buried this week in a sealed and radiation-proof coffin. And it would seem now that that is only the beginning of his story. Confused and mystified by the ever more baroque tale of the killing of Alexander Litvinenko, the Russian spy? Except for perhaps a dozen people on Earth, who isn't? PJM has been covering this 'crime without borders' since news of it first broke. Here's a compilation of the items we found to be significant. Not the truth, not yet -- perhaps not ever -- but significant.

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December 9, 2006 - 9:20 am

The track of the beast: Time describes how Scotland Yard followed the radioactive footprints of Polonium 210 all over Europe and back into Russia.

Litvinenko’s Friends: “how were traces of radiation left in several London locations where Mr Lugovoi was present, but Mr Litvinenko was not?” (Guardian)

Poisoned Ex-Spy Fighting for his Life: In what sounds like a classic Cold War spy novel, Alexander Litvinenko, an expat Russian spy is fighting for his life in a British hospital under armed guard, and fingers are being pointed at the Russian government. Litvinenko was poisoned during meetings held to investigate the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, like him a critic of President Vladimir Putin. Alexander Goldfarb, a friend of the former KGB agent, told BBC radio that “nobody is saying that Putin personally ordered this, although it is very likely.” (Reuters)

UPDATE: Litvenko has been transferred to an intensive care unit after his condition slightly deteriorated. The poison in his system has been identified as thallium _ a toxic metal found in rat poison. (AP) 2006-11-20 06:27:09

In Case Poison Wasn’t Poisonous Enough: Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian spy fighting for his life in a British hospital, may have been given thalium laced with a radioactive substance to render it even more lethal, the toxicologist treating him said. By itself, thalium is a chemical element which can cause a slow, painful death over weeks, even with treatment. (Reuters) 2006-11-21 09:04:47

Who Poisoned Alexander Litvinenko? The Russia Blog describes the background behind the poisoning of a former FSB agent turned anti-government activist, Lt. Colonel Alexander Litvinenko. Charles Ganske connects the plot to Litvinenko’s earlier attempts to expose a pattern of assassinations and provocations within the new Russia. 2006-11-21 14:31:14

Putin critics met in London: Before one was shot after being poisoned and the other simply poisoned. Alexander Litvinenko and the murdered Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya met in London soon after she had survived an attempt to poison her. Politkovskaya, who was shot dead in Moscow last month, spoke to Mr Litvinenko during a visit to Britain last year, her son Ilya said yesterday. (UK Times/Australian) 2006-11-23 16:32:10

Poisoned Russian Spy Dies: CNN reports that Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian former spy died Thursday night in a London hospital three weeks after his suspected poisoning. 2006-11-23 18:42:20

Message To Putin From Beyond: A former Russian spy who died in an apparent poisoning signed a statement in the waning hours of his life blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin and accusing him of having “no respect for life, liberty or any civilized value.” Alexander Litvinenko’s statement, read to reporters outside the hospital where he died late Thursday, addressed the Russian leader directly. (Breitbart/AP) 2006-11-24 05:39:51

Litvinenko Killed By Polonium 210: A radioactive material, probably Polonium 210, has been found in the body of dead ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, it has been revealed. Polonium 210 is only dangerous if ingested and a large quantity of alpha radiation was detected in his urine, said Government experts.” (Sky News)

“The Metropolitan Police are said to be looking for any residual material at a number of locations. [...] It is understood that the post mortem examination on Mr Litvinenko has not been held yet.The delay is believed to concerns over the health implications for those present at the examination.” (BBC) 2006-11-24 07:22:09

Litvinenko’s Last Words: As dictated from his deathbed, according to the BBC:

I would like to thank many people. My doctors, nurses and hospital staff who are doing all they can for me, the British police who are pursuing my case with vigour and professionalism and are watching over me and my family.

I would like to thank the British government for taking me under their care. I am honoured to be a British citizen.

I would like to thank the British public for their messages of support and for the interest they have shown in my plight.

I thank my wife Marina, who has stood by me. My love for her and our son knows no bounds.

But as I lie here I can distinctly hear the beating of wings of the angel of death.

I may be able to give him the slip but I have to say my legs do not run as fast as I would like.

I think, therefore, that this may be the time to say one or two things to the person responsible for my present condition.

You may succeed in silencing me but that silence comes at a price. You have shown yourself to be as barbaric and ruthless as your most hostile critics have claimed.

You have shown yourself to have no respect for life, liberty or any civilised value.

You have shown yourself to be unworthy of your office, to be unworthy of the trust of civilised men and women.

You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life.

May God forgive you for what you have done, not only to me but to beloved Russia and its people.

Alexander Litvinenko
21 November 2006

2006-11-25 17:36:28

We Regret to Inform You That Your Sushi May Have Been Radioactive: Customers at a restaurant and an hotel visited by a poisoned ex-KGB officer will be tested for the radioactive substance that killed him. The British 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. 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. (Yahoo News)

On his deathbed, Litvinenko named the senior Kremlin agent in charge of monitoring him as “Viktor Kirov”. A man called Anatoly V Kirov worked at the Russian embassy in London, where he was listed as a diplomat, until late last year. (The Sunday Times) 2006-11-26 05:18:53

When “You’re Glowing!” Isn’t Exactly a Compliment: Three people have been referred to a special clinic for radiological tests following the death of a former Russian spy in London. An official inquest into Alexander Litvinenko’s death has been set for Thursday. (ITV) 2006-11-27 05:29:54

A Murder Mystery, Not A Cold War Thriller: Brendan O’Neill urges caution against using the death of Alexander Litvinenko to redraw the East-West divide, rushing to indict Putin’s Russia. (Spiked) 2006-11-28 05:21:56

And In Other Cases of Strange Bedfellows, the Chechen government honors Alexander Litvinenko, while AJ Strata gives a short background on the Chechen connection with Litvinenko and with al Qaeda. (The Strata-Sphere) 2006-11-28 10:19:17

Litvinenko Redux? Yegor Gaidar, former Russian architect of Russia’s market reforms as acting Prime Minister for Boris Yelstin, is being treated in a Moscow hospital after coming close to death with a mystery ailment during a visit to Dublin. He fell ill a day after former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko died in a London hospital from radiation. (Reuters) The Financial Times suggests Gaidar may have been poisoned. 2006-11-29 03:45:37

Why the Russians Didn’t Kill Litvinenko: Donald Sensing grudgingly acknowledges several reasons why the FSB might not have poisoned Alexander Litvinenko. It makes him uneasy because he is left with a murder with no obvious suspects. 2006-11-29 19:41:51

More Glowing In The UK: Radiation Found At 12 Locations, 5 More Planes Monitored: Britain is monitoring five planes for radiation and radioactive traces have been found at a dozen locations, in an ever-widening probe into the death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko who was poisoned with radioactive polonium 210. (Reuters/Breitbart) 2006-11-30 06:14:02

Only James Bond Needs To Worry: Experts says that radiation risk from Polonium-210 is minimal for regular Joes. (Popular Mechanics) 2006-12-01 04:09:06

Alexander Litvinenko, The Alternate Theory: Could it have been not murder but an accident, in which “the particles leaked out of a faulty container of Polonium 210 that he (or his associates) were carrying.” (Edward Jay Epstein via NY Sun; HT Instapundit)

ADDENDUM: Meanwhile, polonium radiation has hit a second person: Italian academic Mario Scaramella, who had lunch with Litvinenko shorlty before he fell ill. (SKy News) 2006-12-01 07:02:08

More Russian Poisoning Intrigue: Yet another Russian–former FSB officer Mikhail Trepashkin–claims to have warned Alexander Litvinenko about the existence of “a government-sponsored death squad that intended to kill him and other Kremlin opponents.” The warning came via a letter dated November 23, 2002, says Trepashkin, and “was released today by rights activists in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg.” The FBI is joining forces with Scotland Yard to investigate Litvinenko’s death. (Albuquerque Tribune/AP)

UPDATE: Allahpundit has lots more, including the origin of the polonium and the news that Litvinenko’s widow has been dosed, though she had tested negative earlier. “How long is the delay between the initial poisoning and the emergence of symptoms?” asks AP.

UPDATE: It appears that it was Mrs. Litvineko’s clothing set off Geiger counters, as opposed to traces of polonium being found on her body. (Live broadcast) 2006-12-01 11:37:20

The Second Man: The man Alexander Litvinenko met at a London sushi bar has been taken to the hospital to be treated for Polonium 210 poisoning, according to the Times of London. AJ Strata speculates that Litvineko wasn’t purposely poisoned but died from a leak in connection with an attempt to smuggle quantities of Polonium to a buyer in the UK. 2006-12-01 23:14:12

Who was Alexander Litvinenko? “Ela Malek, 22, fears she may have been contaminated by the radiation poison that slowly killed the ex-KGB agent. … Ela, who took Litvinenko’s order for sashimi … told how she recognised him instantly … ‘We noticed him because he was so expensively dressed. Everything was Armani or some other designer. He always had wads of cash in his wallet and seemed very wealthy. Me and the other girls talked about him. We wondered what he did because he was so secretive and had so much money.’” (UK Sun) 2006-12-02 01:43:39

Did Litvinenko Convert to Islam? The Daily Telegraph has been told that Mr Litvinenko had converted to Islam. Akhmed Zakayev, the leading Chechen dissident who lived next door to Mr Litvinenko, said: “He was read to from the Koran the day before he died and had told his wife and family that he wanted to be buried in accordance with Muslim tradition.” 2006-12-02 04:07:00

Why Didn’t You Just Put a Pillow Over His Face? Russian president Vladimir Putin is angry with the British failure to “gag” poisoned spy Alexander Litvinenko while he was on his deathbed, where he accused the “barbaric and ruthless” Russian regime of murdering him. (Fox News) 2006-12-03 09:22:06

Spymania: Fascinated with the poisoned Russian spy case but no time to read multiple British papers? Obsessed bloggers like Allahpundit and AJ Strata provide handy daily summaries. Allah worries about long-term addiction: “If I’m still blogging about Litvinenko three years from now, I’ll be looking for polonium for myself.” 2006-12-04 03:58:11

Litvinenko’s Burial: Alexander Litvinenko’s father, Walter, will bury his son in the Islamic manner. The younger Litvinenko “was born an Orthodox Christian but had close links to Islamist rebels in Chechnya [and] had requested to be buried according to Muslim tradition after converting to Islam on his deathbed.” (Times of London) 2006-12-04 12:34:08

Every Cloud of Radiation Has A Silver Lining: The ‘Polonium Restaurant’ in Sheffield, central England, is getting more business from local customers in the aftermath of the poisoning of a former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. (Breitbart/AFP) 2006-12-05 03:04:04

Russia “Did It:” Intelligence services in the UKare convinced that the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko was authorised by the Russian Federal Security Service. (The Times – UK, via Perri Nelson) 2006-12-06 07:01:36

London Hotel Glowing All Over: Seven workers at the Millennium Hotel, where former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko met a contact on the day he fell ill, have tested positive for “low levels” of polonium. (Breitbart/AP) 2006-12-07 08:29:59

Polonium Mystery Spreads — Ex-Spy Contact Falls Into a Coma: Dmitry Kovtun, a businessman and former Russian agent who met with former spy Alexander Litvinenko in London, has developed an illness connected with a radioactive substance, the prosecutor’s office said. Interfax, citing unidentified sources, said Kovtun fell into a coma immediately after being questioned by Russian investigators and Scotland Yard detectives. (Breitbart/AP) 2006-12-07 10:09:48

Radiation at British Embassy in Russia: Traces of radiation were found at the British Embassy in Moscow as a Litvinenko case witness delayed a meeting with British investigators. (Toronto Daily News) 2006-12-07 17:42:41

Litvinenko Linked To ‘American Hiroshima’? “The death of Alexander Litvinenko by radiological poisoning points to the possibility that the former Soviet spy may have been involved with Islamic terrorists in the preparation of tactical nuclear weapons for use in the jihad against the United States and its NATO allies.” (Canadian Free Press, via Hot Air) 2006-12-08 07:01:24

A Coffin for Litvinenko: He began life as a Russian, was killed with radioactive Polonium, and buried as a Muslim, in a sealed radiation-proof coffin. American Digest looks at Alexander Litvinenko. 2006-12-08 19:19:30

The Best Alibi: “Some say that the Litvinenko murder was so obvious, so bold, so messy — five airplanes contaminated, 30,000 people alerted, dozens of places in London radioactive — that it could not possibly have been the KGB.

“But that’s the beauty of it. Do it obvious, do it brazen, and count on those too-clever-by-half Westerners to find that exonerating. As the president of the Central Anarchist Council (in G.K. Chesterton’s “The Man Who Was Thursday”) advised: “You want a safe disguise, do you? . . . A dress in which no one would ever look for a bomb? Why, then, dress up as an anarchist, you fool!” (Charles Krauthammer @ WaPo) 2006-12-09 05:30:34

Litvinenko Mystery Crosses Another Border: German police said Saturday that they had found traces of radiation at two sites in and near Hamburg linked to a contact of poisoned former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, Dmitry Kovtun. The radiation was found at his ex-wife appartment and at his ex-wife’s mother’s home. (AP) 2006-12-09 06:43:38

And the beat goes on…..

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