Alexander Litvinenko was hospitalized on November 2, but the seriousness of his condition became known only after this photo was released by his family.
Russia's Poisonous Foreign Policy
// The West thinks Alexander Litvinenko is a victim of the Kremlin
The scandal surrounding the poisoning of former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko has reached international proportions. A photograph of Litvinenko in his hospital bed emblazoned the front pages of the leading European and world newspaper yesterday with editorial coverage that favored the idea that the political emigrant is suffering for his criticism of the Kremlin. The case has been taken up by the antiterrorism unit of Scotland Yard and Washington is not standing up quietly either. The U.S. administration has asked Great Britain for all information concerning the crime.
The State Department Is Interested in Everything
The poisoning of former FSB colonel Alexander Litvinenko was top news around the world yesterday. Interest in the Russian, who was hospitalized on November 2, was sparked by two details. First, the fact that he was poisoned has been medically confirmed. Second, the Scotland Yard antiterrorism unit is running the investigation of the crime. The case is being treated as urgent. It was initiated not on petition of the victim or his family, but at the hospital's behest.
International attention was stepped up when the U.S. administration took an interest in Litvinenko's case. U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey told journalists that Washington requested information about the poisoning case from the British government on Monday. “We saw the same reports in the press as you and now we are trying to contact the British government to find out what information it has,” he said. He added that there were no plans to contact the Russian government in regard to the case. “First we need to receive information from London,” Casey said.
A Kommersant source in the State Department said that the U.S. interest in the Litvinenko case was due to the international attention it has received. “There is nothing in the world that doesn't interest the State Department,” he said. “I'm sorry. I can't say anything else.”
The Western press is free in its commentary ad has suggested several explanations in the case. A photograph of Litvinenko, who is in intensive care in University College Hospital in London and has lost his hair from the poison, appeared on the front pages of newspapers in Europe and the United States yesterday. The dominant theory in the press is that the former officer in the Russian special services is being made to pay for his harsh criticism of the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin personally.
Political emigrant and Chechen separatist representative Akhmed Zakaev, who has accused Russia of “a state policy of terrorism,” agrees with that speculation. “England has suffered another attack. A terrorist act was committed against the Western mentality on November 1,” Zakaev told Kommersant in regard to the heightened press interest in the incident.
Suspected Premeditated Poisoning
Litvinenko's condition is still being listed as serious. He is being treated by prominent British toxicologist John Henry, who was one of the first doctors to suggest in 2004 that Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko had been poisoned by dioxin. Henry stated that Litvinenko may have been poisoned with radioactive thallium isotope. The hospital press service rejected that suggestion the same evening, however. According to the hospital's official statement, Litvinenko's symptoms and analyses performed show that thallium is unlikely to be the cause of his condition, and specialists are now considering other possibilities.
The intensive care unit where Litvinenko is located is inaccessible. The entire floor is surrounded by police. Only visitors placed on a list by Litvinenko's wife are permitted.
While British doctors try to determine what was used in the attempt to kill Litvinenko and how to save his life, Scotland Yard detectives are searching for the poisoners. Scotland Yard has characterized Litvinenko's illness as “suspected premeditated poisoning ad s refusing to comment until the investigation is completed. “We are waiting for the results of toxicological analyses and do not intend to speculate on the possible causes of his condition until then,” a police statement reads. Possible witnesses are now being questions and recordings made by a surveillance camera are being analyzed.
There are no surveillance cameras in the Itsu sushi bar in Piccadilly, where Litvinenko met with Italian law professor Mario Scaramella on November 1. Some critics have suggested that their absence is not by chance. There are 4.5 million cameras in Great Britain that record the lives of its citizens. In downtown London, it is especially difficult to avoid a camera. Itsu manager Tatyana Assis said that two investigators came to the restaurant. “They asked if we had cameras. We said we don't and they left without explanation,” she recounted.
Litvinenko did not tie his poisoning to restaurant personnel. He also left that he had “no right” to accuse Scaramella, although he noted that he began to feel baldy right after their meeting. Scaramella held a press conference in Rome yesterday at which he gave the details of his meeting with Litvinenko. He said that he was motivated to meet with Litvinenko by a letter he received shortly before that from “a reliable source” who listed persons living in St. Petersburg who, the source thought, had killed journalist Anna Politkovskaya and were preparing for more crimes. Litvinenko, Scaramella himself and Italian senator Paolo Guzzanti. Scaramella and Guzzanti had studied the archives of Vasily Mitrokhin, the KGB major who defected to the West in 1992, taking secret KGB documents with him.
According to Scaramella, Litvinenko found the source's information unconvincing, but the nevertheless agreed to meet again. Scaramella admitted that he ate nothing during their meeting in the sushi bar.
The West Is Ready to Believe the Worst about Russia
Scaramella was the last, but not only, person Litvinenko met with on the day of his poisoning. London newspapers, citing former KGB officer and defector Oleg Gordievsky, reported yesterday that Litvinenko drank tea with two Russian acquaintances on November 1. According to The Daily Telegraph, that meeting took place in a hotel and one of the people involved was Andrey Lugovoi, former head of security for ORT television. The second person was named Vladimir. Litvinenko had never met him before. Scotland Yard is not mentioning the two Russians as suspects, but admits that it is investigating the circumstances of that meeting.
Lugovoi graduated from the Supreme Council Military School in Moscow in 1987 and was assigned to the Kremlin division of the 9th department of the KGB of the USSR. In 1992, he was transferred to the Main Department of the Guard. In 1992 and 1993, Lugovoi worked as deputy head of the guard for Egor Gaidar, who was prime minister at the time. From 1997 to 2001, he was head of the security service for ORT. In June 2001, Lugovoi was charged with arranging the escape from custody of Nikolay Glushkov, one of the suspects in the so-called Aeroflot case. Lugovoi was sentenced in court to a year and two months' prison, but since he had been held that long by the time the trial ended, he was released. He then went onto business.
Kommersant contacted Lugovoi yesterday. He refused to comment on the publication sin the British press where he is mentioned in connection with the attempt on Litvinenko's life. “I won't give any comments until I have met with representatives of the British embassy in Moscow and answered their questions to clear up the situation,” he said. “Then maybe I'll say what I think about all of this.” He said that he contacted the British embassy yesterday morning and talked to a high-placed member of the diplomatic corps.
The British Foreign Office and MI5 and MI6 intelligence services are refraining from official actions until the first results of the Scotland Yard investigation are received. The Foreign Office stated that the Litvinenko case had been discussed with Russian diplomats, but only “in the format of a note on the high interest in it by the press.”
Western analysts' unofficial opinions support the idea that Litvinenko was the victim of the Russian special services. “The poisoning looks like the handiwork of former agents in new dress,” said Fritz Ermath, former head of the CIA intelligence council. He recalled three poisonings, of Yury Shchekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya (in September 2004) and Viktor Yushchenko, that the press attributed to the Kremlin. Ermath is of the opinion that “the desire of many people to accuse the Kremlin of poisoning is premature until the medical results are received… Too many different people could have done it – the Kremlin, friends of the Kremlin, and its enemies.”
In an analysis of the press coverage of the incident, The Guardian noted that the West is ready to believe the worst about Russia and the Putin administration. It seems that Russia's image in the West, which the Kremlin is investing large funds in improving, has never been worse. The Litvinenko case shows that the harsh criticism of Russia in the Western press is not done at the bidding of politicians but reflects a stereotype in Western public opinion, which the Kremlin is powerless to counter.
On August 4, 1995, head of Rosbiznesbank Ivan Kivelidi was poisoned with a nerve agent that had been placed on the telephone in his office. Vladimir Khutsishvili, a member of the board of directors of the bank, was arrested on suspicion of murder in October, but later released for lack of evidence. On June 30, 2006, Khutsishvili was arrested again after new evidence came to light, and is now awaiting trial.
On April 11, 2002, the FSB reported that field commander Khattab had been liquidated in Chechnya. According to the media, he was killed with a poisoned letter. Militants shortly thereafter shot Dagestani resident Ibragim Alauri, who allegedly sent the poisoned letter to Khattab on instructions from the FSB. The FSB denied having any ties with Alauri.
On July 3, 2003, Novaya gazeta
newspaper writer and State Duma
member from Yabloko
Yury Shchekochikhin died of what was called a brain hemorrhage. Many of his colleagues suspected that he was poisoned. His investigation of smuggling by the Three Whales stores and publications about corruption in law enforcement bodies were thought to be the motives.
On June 1, 2004, Khizri Aldamov, representative of Ichkerian President Aslan Maskhadov in Georgia
, along with his son and nephew, were hospitalized in Tbilisi for “poisoning.” The Georgian Interior Ministry determined that Aldamov's car had been poisoned with a phosphorous-containing substance. The victim claimed that he was poisoned on orders of the Russian FSB.
On September 24, 2004, general director of Baltic Escort private security company Roman Tsepov died in St. Petersburg. The cause of his death was poisoning by a medicine used to treat leukemia. Tsepov did not have leukemia. The company headed by Tsepov provided protection to the leaders of the city, including mayor Anatoly Sobchak and his deputy Vladimir Putin. The murder is still under investigation.
Why Do They Care about Alexander Litvinenko?
Leonid Zamyatin, Soviet ambassador in Great Britain, 1986-1992:
Litvinenko is a valuable defector to Great Britain and the United States. When he left us, he had secrets that many of the world's intelligence services want. The English MI5 service is smarter than what the Americans have and its network of agents is wider, but it is clear that the U.S. has received some data and they want to double check it. And it should nit be forgotten that Litvinenko mainly gave evidence about Ukraine and Kuchma. The conclusion that comes to mind is that he bothered Ukraine, not Russia.
Sergey Ivanenko, deputy chairman of the Yabloko Party:
It is the correct and natural reaction of civilized society to an attempt at murder. When there is a suspicion that the special services of another country have carried out such an operation, there can be no other reaction. It was not by chance that the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service
immediately denied its involvement in the incident. The interest of the U.S. is explained by the modernization of its policy toward us. The Democrats will have a stricter attitude toward Russia. It's a shame that similar incidents, such as the murder of Yury Shchekochikhin, do not worry our society.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the LDPR:
The U.S. State Department and special services manage all the renegades that runaway from us. They need them as sources of information, to set up disruptive networks within every country. The way Litvinenko is ending his life is the fate of all traitors. He could have sat in some institute or gone into business. Instead he went there. Everything ends badly there.
Igor Morozov, State Duma members in the Rodina (Fatherland) faction, retired Foreign Intelligence Service colonel:
On the threshold of the presidential elections in the U.S., the parties are seizing any chance to draw attention to themselves. They make out pretty well with that PR. It is possible that Berezovsky, whose work with Russian parties and movements was unsuccessful, is seeking a way to create tensions in Russia at the request of the U.S. administration.
Nikolay Leonov, member of the State Duma Security Committee, former head of the analytical department of the foreign intelligence section of the KGB of the USSR:
An anti-Russian campaign is gaining force around the world. The Americans never miss a chance to lash out at Russia. But, in this case, the poisoning scandal plays into the hands of someone else – Berezovsky. By raising a world scandal against Russia, he is getting his revenge for having burnt out as a politician and businessman.
Garri Kasparov, leader of the United Civil Front:
Their patience is used up. Western society is beginning to understand that there is a total attack in Russia on those who do not agree with Kremlin policy. There are still no intelligible results from the investigation of the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, but she was killed in Russia, and the attempt on Litvinenko's life was made in London, so Great Britain will take the case seriously. But the Kremlin is not worried about its reputation, since the WTO
agreement has already been signed.
All the Article in Russian as of Nov. 22, 2006