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Former FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko was a minor figure and did not know much, the head of the KGB veterans' says.
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Dec. 11, 2006
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Brits Are Not Looking for the Truth - Ex-KGB Officer
The Litvinenko Case
The probe into the mysterious death of former FSB agent Alexander Litvineko is getting increasingly tangled. One of Litvinenko’s contacts has also been poisoned by polonium. What is more, a KGB veterans’ organization has recently come under suspicion.
Russian prosecutors opened a criminal case on the murder of Alexander Litvinenko on December 7 as well as on the attempt at Dmitry Kovtun who met Litvinenko, Andrey Lugovoi and Vyacheslav Sokolenko in a bar at the Millennium hotel in London’s Mayfair on November 1. Litvinenko’s contacts insist that it was a business meeting. For the record, Kovtun, Lugovoi and Sokolenko all graduated from the Command College and went on to work at the KGB and Federal Guard Service. All of them have turned to business – some set up guards firms, some opened breweries.

As the Prosecutor General’s Officer opened the case, Kovtun went to hospital with symptoms similar to those of the late Litvinenko. Investigators came to examine him at the hospital in the presence of their British counterparts who had flown to Moscow last Thursday. It was not clear then if Andrey Lugovoi and Vyacheslav Sokolenko were well.

Kovtun says he met Litvinenko only twice – on October 16 when Lugovoi introduced him to the political émigré and at the fatal meeting on November 1. Another man, Sokolenko, denies taking part in the November 1 meeting with Litvinenko, saying he flew to London to watch football. He admits, though, to greeting Litvinenko at the entrance of the Millennium Mayfair hotel.

This explains how traces of radiation have come to be found at the Emirates Stadium in London where the three Russians went to see football after meeting Litvinenko. Kovtun was there with polonium in his system. The poisoning of Kovtun makes the enigmatic case even more intricate. If he suffered too, Litvinenko was poisoned by someone else. However, one may surmise that Kovtun got poisoned by accident. British police says somebody dropped a capsule with polonium on the floor of the Mayfair hotel’s room which was presumably taken by one of Litvinenko’s FSB friends.

The Daily Telegraph has discovered another possible perpetrator of the poisoning – a KGB veterans’ organization, Dignity and Honor. The British newspaper claims that the organization and its head Valentin Velichko are mentioned in a letter by Evgeny Limarev. Mario Scaramella, an Italian lawyer, allegedly handed this letter to Litvinenko on November 1. The letter claimed that retired secret service officers were involved in the killing of the opposition journalist Anna Politkovskaya and were masterminding murders of Litvinenko, Berezovsky, Scaramella and Italian Senator Paolo Guzzanti, the chair of the Mitrokhin commission which probes into activities of the KGB in Italy.

Litvinenko did not give much credit to the letter. Indeed, Limarev can hardly be a creditable person. Evgeny Limarev graduated from the Moscow Institute for Foreign Relations, worked in 1992-1994 at a sugar-refinery in Belgorod, central Russia, as an interpreter, was accused of misappropriating sugar and moved to France in 2000. Once abroad, he created a web-site where he published articles featuring secret services’ graduates who “seized power” in Russia. It is of note that the site does not mention Valentin Velichko, head of the Dignity and Honor fund, among other those who “seized” power.

The Dignity and Honor foundation was set up in 2003. Valentin Velichko, former FSB colonel and now businessmen, had earlier sat on the board of the Veterans of Foreign Intelligence Service organization. Members of the foundation saved Arjan Erkel, a Dutch medical aid worker, from 2-year captivity after the man was kidnapped in Makhachkala, Dagestan, in 2002. The operation sparked a scandal. Médecins Sans Frontières asked ˆ1 million from the Dutch Embassy to Moscow to pay a ransom to rescue Erkel. The embassy gave the money but asked it back later, arguing that it was a loan. Valentin Velichko’s fund also claimed that the Dutch had been released without any kind of ransom. The money, however, disappeared. The fund provided aid to families of the killed employees of the FSB’s Special Purpose Center who helped release hostages in the Beslan school siege.

Kommersant did not manage to make contract with Evgeny Limarev. In contrast, representatives of the KGB veterans’ fund were willing to give their comments. The organization’s secretary said Valentin Velichko was away on a business trip and suggested we talk to the fund’s vice-president. He introduced himself as Viktor Afanasyevich but was reluctant to give his last name.

“Viktor Afanasyevich, the British Daily Telegraph directly accuses your fund of being involved in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko…”

“I’m not going to comment it in any way! Imagine, your neighbor says you’re a murderer. You would naturally say it’s rubbish and would not even discuss it. Why should we behave differently?”

“Have your lawyer drawn up a suit against the newspaper?”

“Our lawyers have decided that it’s no use suiting the paper because they allegedly have Limarev’s letter and they have a right to refer to it. But we have no clue who this Limarev is. He has nothing to do with the KGB. In fact, Scotland Yard did not show any interest to this information, so it means nobody takes this letter seriously. Otherwise, they would be here. We are an open organization. It’s easy to find us. We have normal contracts with the press as well as with authorities.”

“How can you explain the fact that your foundation was mentioned in relation to the Litvinenko case?”

“We publish information about the organization, and our leaflets are available. The Daily Telegraph has taken Velichko’s picture from the leaflet, so apparently this was just the first thing that came their way. After that, they put information about our foundation into Limarev’s mouth. They think that veterans of the Foreign Intelligence Service are kind of power brokers. You know, a lot of people still remember that our organization helped to find and release the Dutch doctor Arjan Erkel from captivity. We were indeed involved in this affair – but we have nothing to do with Litvinenko.”

“Not every nonprofit organization is able to hold negotiations with Chechen militants and hold operations to save people…”

“It is quite a natural thing that we still have our work experience and we do have skills of information gathering. Therefore, we did our best after Doctors Without Borders contracted us asking for help. We still have some contacts and friends. You use your contacts as a journalist, don’t you?”

“Why did Litvinenko fear for his life?”

“Come on, he did not fear for his life! Now that he’s gone, everyone attributes all the possible nonsense to him. Of course as a defector he damaged Russia’s image. Everyone knows what he was doing – he was selling information for nice fees, but it could not have inflicted serious damage. To tell you the truth, he did not know much. There are lots of people like Litvinenko, and they are all well – no one would do anything to get rid of them. Western media traditionally blame the Kremlin. Recall Yushenkov’s murder. Everyone claimed that the Kremlin was to blame for his murder, but once a real killer was found, no one even bothered to apologize to special services for those ungrounded accusations.

“Are there any other ‘defectors’ who are more important as public figures than Litvinenko?”

“I guess Gordievsky is.”

“Do you have your own theory of Litvinenko’s killing? Who could have been gained from it?”

“Those who contend Russian authorities, who want to mould the Empire of Evil, those who had their economic interests infringed – they could have gained some profit from it. Berezovsky of course! Well, you know, Russia has been quite hard on the Brits on Sakhalin, so they may still be resentful. I would not make a direct link here, though. Europe’s attitude is weird. It looks like we’re sliding back to Cold War times.”

“Do you know Lugovoi, Kovtun and Sokolenko personally?”

“We have nothing to do with them. They have no relation to the foundation. If they do know something about our organization, it must be from the press or our leaflets. This link has been made with no grounds whatsoever. We know who made his link – Berezovsky.”

“Do you think Scotland Yard will find the criminals soon?”

“You have to understand this – the Brits are not looking for truth now. They are looking for a Russian trace. If they succeed in stitching the case up to Russia, the murder will be solved. If it turns out that the killers have nothing to do with Russia, we may never learn about the results. I think this could prove to be the case.”

“Viktor Afanasyevich, would you remind me please… how do you spell your last name?”

“Do you think it’s so necessary? My name and patronymic are quite enough, I guess…”

Kommersant’s search on the web has shown that the fund has two presidents along with Valentin Velichko. They surnames are Dolya and Ubilava. Ubilava’s first name is Anatoly, Dolya’s name is Viktor. Viktor Afanasyevich’s secretary confirmed that her boss’ last name is Dolya.

Igor Klochkov and Anna Kachurovskaya

All the Article in Russian as of Dec. 11, 2006

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