Alexander Litvinenko

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Person.png Alexander Litvinenko   Powerbase SourcewatchRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(spook, whistleblower, Russian apartment bombings/Premature death)
Alexander Litvinenko.jpg
BornAleksandr Valterovich Litvinenko
30 August 1962
Voronezh, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Died23 November 2006 (Age 44)
London, United Kingdom
Cause of death
polonium, poisoning
NationalityUnited Kingdom, Soviet Union, Russian Federation
Children • Alexander
• Sonia
• Anatoly
ExposedRussian apartment bombings
Victim ofassassination
Interest ofWilliam Dunkerley
An exiled Russian spook turned whistleblower who died of polonium poisoning in London.

Alexander Valterovich Litvinenko was a former officer of the Russian FSB secret service, who specialised in tackling organised crime.[1] In November 1998, Litvinenko and several other FSB officers publicly accused their superiors of ordering the assassination of the 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 political asylum in the United Kingdom, where he worked as a journalist, writer and "consultant" for both MI5 and MI6


Litvinenko was born in Voronezh, south-west Russia. After school he joined the army and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Then, in the dying days of the Soviet Union in 1988, he entered the counter-intelligence department of the KGB. In 1991, once the KGB's directorates had split up, he worked for the federal security service (FSB), fighting "terrorism" and organised crime, sometimes operating in Chechnya. In 1997 he moved to one of the most secret divisions of the service, a unit called URPO investigating "organised criminal formations".[2]

Allegations about Berezovsky and the Russian apartment bombings

Alexander Litvinenko had been tasked to counter attempts by the Russian mafia to infiltrate the security services, but came to realise he was not succeeding. In November 1998, Litvinenko staged a press conference in Moscow, in which he accused the FSB – then headed by Vladimir Putin – of ordering him to assassinate Boris Berezovsky, fuelling a firestorm in the Russian parliament. Within days Litvinenko was under investigation and within weeks found himself in prison. His allies contrived his release in December 1999 and by the summer of 2000 they were urging him to flee or face a lifetime in a political gulag.

Boris Berezovsky had already installed himself in London and was busy sponsoring every enemy of Putin who crossed his path. He owed a debt of gratitude to Litvinenko and, in November 2000, Berezovsky arranged for him, Marina and their son, Anatoly, to escape from Russia, sending biochemist Alex Goldfarb, a Russian émigré and pro-democracy campaigner, to escort the family to London.

Alexander Litvinenko assumed he would be feted in the west. He looked to the experiences of other leading exiles, including Oleg Gordievsky, the far more senior former KGB London station chief and an old friend, who had been embraced by the British authorities when he defected in 1985. In London, Litvinenko continued his onslaught with a book, The FSB Blows Up Russia, in which he accused his former employers of the 1999 Russian apartment bombings which killed about 300 people and was exploited as a casus belli for the attacks on Chechen rebels.[3]

Global Drug Trade

"Litvinenko was working for the KGB in St Petersburg in 2001 and 2002. He became concerned at the vast amounts of heroin coming from Afghanistan, in particular from the fiefdom of the (now) head of the Afghan armed forces, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, in north and east Afghanistan."
Craig Murray

Mitrokhin Commission

In December 2003, Litvinenko was approached by Mario Scaramella to take part in the Mitrokhin Commission that had been formed two years earlier by prime minister Silvio Berlusconi ostensibly to discover if senior figures in the Italian establishment had been in the pay of the KGB - in reality a vehicle for smearing Berlusconi's socialist enemies.

The Commission was a meal ticket and would enable him to see more of his brother, Maxim, who had fled Russia before him and was living in Senigallia, a small Italian port on the Adriatic coast. Litvinenko's only concern was about the value of the information he had to bring to the table. In the FSB, he'd had no connection with the foreign wing and no knowledge of its network of recruits in abroad, the people who were to be the focus of the commission.

To back him up, he took along a new contact he had made through the Berezovsky circle, Evgeni Limarev, also a Russian exile, who lived in France and was the son of a high-ranking KGB officer.[4]

Targets of the Mitrokhin Commission included former Italian Prime Ministers Romano Prodi and Massimo D'Alema, Green Party leader Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, other senior politicians, intelligence officials and judges, as well as journalists from La Repubblica.

Romano Prodi

Litvinenko had no compunction in recalling a piece of gossip he had been told by a former KGB deputy director as he fled Russia. In 2000, General Anatoly Trofimov had warned Litvinenko not to go to Rome since "Prodi is our man in Italy". He was referring to Romano Prodi, the former Italian prime minister who went on to become president of the European Commission.

Now Litvinenko regurgitated the unfounded claim to Scaramella who persuaded him to write it down.[4]

On 29 March 2006, Litvinenko met UKIP MEP Gerard Batten at the Itsu restaurant in London. Four days later, with an Italian general election imminent, Batten called for an Inquiry into Prodi in the European Parliament. Prodi responded by threatening to sue Litvinenko and Scaramella. In the resulting controversy, Silvio Berlusconi was forced to wind up the Mitrokhin Commission, and Prodi won the election.[4]

The Imam Rapito Affair

Litvinenko, Limarev and Scaramella met in Italy with Robert Seldon Lady, a CIA agent posted as a political officer to the US consulate in Milan. Lady was allegedly involved in the so-called Imam Rapito affair, the kidnapping of Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr. The Mitrokhin Commission investigated allegations that the prosecutor in the case, Armando Spataro, had secret links to the KGB.[4]

Semion Mogilevich

Litvinenko and Scaramella clamed that Semion Mogilevich, a Ukrainian organised crime boss, had extensive links to the Putin government in Russia.[4]

Alexander Talik

In October 2005, Litvinenko accused Ukrainian Alexander Talik of being an FSB agent in Italy with links to Mogilevich. Talik claimed he had been framed after refusing to provide information to Scaramella.

In the same month, Litvinenko and Scaramella gave Italian police details of a plot to Kill Litvinenko's borther Maxim. In November Litvinenko released the story in the Ukrainian press. By now the Italian police had begun tapping the phones of Litvinenko, Scaramella and Talik.[5]

Andrei Lugovoi

In January 2006, Litvinenko attended Boris Berezovsky's birthday party at Blenheim Palace. He was seated with Andrei Lugovoi, who, according to The Guardian was a former KGB and FSB colleague of Alexander Talik. Litvinenko reportedly told Alex Goldfarb that he had agreed to become Lugovoi's man in London.[4]

Limarev claims

In October 2006, Evgeni Limarev sent Scaramella a series of emails claiming that the Russians were out to kill everyone connected with the Mitrokhin Commission. These emails were reportedly the subject of Scaramella's final meeting with Litvinenko.[4]


Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with the radioactive isotope polonium-210 at some time on or around 1 November 2006.

Millennium Hotel meeting

Persuasive evidence that Sir Robert Owen's conclusions about those responsible for the death of Litvinenko are dead wrong

At about 10am on 1 November 2006, Litvinenko met with Andrei Lugovoi who had also served in the FSB until 1999, and who then owned a private security firm in Moscow, in the Pine bar of the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair (close to the US embassy). He had been meeting Lugovoi on his trips to London for several months, and two weeks earlier had brought him to Erinys International, one of the security companies in Berezovsky's building, to discuss a business proposal. According to Lugovoi, who had come to London to watch a football match between Arsenal and CSKA Moscow, Litvinenko now wanted to discuss the progress of that venture. Also at the meeting were two other people unknown to Litvinenko: Dmitry Kovtun, a business partner of Lugovoi, and another partner named Vyacheslav Sokolenko. Litvinenko's friends insist that he drank tea during the meeting.[6]

Itsu restaurant meeting

At around 3pm, Mr Litvinenko met Mario Scaramella, another long-standing contact, who had called him out of the blue saying he wanted to bring forward a meeting planned for 10 November to discuss important documents. Scaramella told Mr Litvinenko that he had received a death threat aimed at both of them. They met for 35 minutes in the basement of a branch of Itsu, a sushi restaurant chain. After the meeting, Litvinenko went to Boris Berezovsky's office. According to his wife Marina, when he returned home, he felt ill.[7]

Final Days

After three days of sickness and stomach pains, Alexander Litvinenko was admitted to Barnet General Hospital, north London on 4 November.[8] It was initially suspected that he had been poisoned with thallium.

The main, if not only, source for the "revenge-murder scenario" were people funded by Boris Berezovsky. A web site in France, which had received financing from Berezovsky's foundation, circulated a report that there was a Russian "hit list" that had Litvinenko's name on it. Even though the "hit list" itself never materialised, it helped link the death of Litvinenko in the public mind with that of Anna Politkovskaya, the crusading journalist who had been murdered a month earlier, in October 2006, and whose name was also on the putative hit list. Meanwhile, a Chechen website, also supported by Berezovsky's foundation, ran stories such as "FSB Attempted to Murder Russian Defector in London."

At the hospital, Berezovsky's PR consultant, Lord Tim Bell, began briefing journalists, arranging interviews and supplying photographs of an emaciated, hairless Litvinenko.[9]

On 17 November 2006, he was transferred to University College Hospital under armed guard as his condition worsened.[10]

According to Edward Jay Epstein's account, doctors realised that Litvinenko was suffering from polonium poisoning only a few hours before his death on 23 November 2006. A a press conference that day, Berezovsky associate Alex Goldfarb read out a statement that he said had been dictated to him by Litvinenko, which accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of responsibility for his murder.[11]


The Health Protection Agency confirmed on 24 November 2006 that Litvinenko had been poisoned by polonium-210.[12] The next day the HPA announced that polonium-210 had been found in "a small number of areas at the Itsu sushi restaurant at 167 Piccadilly, London, and in some areas of the Millennium Hotel, Grosvenor Square in London and at Mr Litvinenko's home in Muswell Hill."[13] On 28 November the HPA said it was "also aware of the two new addresses where Police confirmed last night that traces of polonium-210 had been found - 7 Down Street and 25 Grosvenor Street.[13] On 29 November, the HPA confirmed that traces had been found at 58 Grosvenor Street.[13]

On 6 December, the HPA announced that localised contamination had been found at Parkes Hotel in Knightsbridge.[13] On 8 December, it said that traces of contamination had been found at 1 Cavendish Place.[13]

On 1 December, the HPA said that a second person "who was in direct and very close contact with Mr Litvinenko has a significant quantity of the radioactive isotope polonium-210 (Po-210) in their body."[13] This was Mario Scaramella, but on 9 December, the HPA said that further tests showed only "very low levels of Po-210 in his body."[13]

In November 2007, Edward Jay Epstein visited Moscow and was shown the British files by Russian investigators.

"What immediately caught my attention was that it did not include the basic documents in any murder case, such as the postmortem autopsy report, which would help establish how — and why — Litvinenko died. In lieu of it, Detective Inspector Robert Lock of the Metropolitan Police Service at New Scotland Yard wrote that he was 'familiar with the autopsy results' and that Litvinenko had died of 'Acute Radiation Syndrome'. Like Sherlock Holmes's clue of the dog that didn't bark, this omission was illuminating in itself."[14]

Public Inquiry

On 21 January 2016, a long-awaited UK report into his death [15] concluded that two Russians - Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun - poisoned 44-year-old Litvinenko in London in 2006 by putting the polonium-210 into his drink. The original inquest into the death became stalled over the refusal of the UK government to allow evidence from MI5 and MI6 to be presented. Some eight years later, on 24 July 2014, the inquest was turned into a so-called Public Inquiry in which much of its evidence was then heard in private. The Inquiry announcement was made in the immediate aftermath of the shooting down of a civilian airliner, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, over Eastern Ukraine and whilst President Putin was being vilified by western politicians and commercially-controlled media in the most extraordinary and sustained manner, as the "obvious" perpetrator. This led to understandable accusations from Russia that the Inquiry had more to do with demonising President Putin and Russia than with genuine concern for justice in the Litvinenko murder case. The Russian Investigative Committee into the death then refused to take part on the grounds that it was neither public nor free from political motivation. In a Kafkaesque move that effectively denied the chief suspects opportunity to provide evidence in their own defence, the UK Inquiry declined to hear video-link evidence from them and eventually held them to be jointly responsible for the death.[16]

Inquiry chairman Sir Robert Owen said he was "sure" Litvinenko's murder had been carried out by the two men and that they were "probably" acting under the direction of Moscow's FSB intelligence service, and approved by the FSB's Nikolai Patrushev and President Putin. He said Mr Litvinenko's work for MI5 and MI6, his criticism of the FSB and Mr Putin, and his association with other Russian dissidents were possible motives for his killing. There was also "undoubtedly a personal dimension to the antagonism" between Mr Putin and Mr Litvinenko.

Home Secretary Theresa May told the House of Commons that the murder was a "blatant and unacceptable" breach of international law, and said Prime Minister David Cameron would raise the findings with President Putin at "the next available opportunity". A Downing Street spokeswoman said the report's conclusions were "extremely disturbing", saying: "It is not the way for any state, let alone a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to behave."

Responding to the report, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom Alexander Yakovenko said:

"For us it is absolutely unacceptable that the report concludes that the Russian state was in any way involved in the death of Mr Litvinenko on British soil," [17]

Andrei Lugovoi, who is now a politician in Russia, said:

"The results of the investigation made public today yet again confirm London's anti-Russian position, its blinkeredness and the unwillingness of the English to establish the true reason of Litvinenko's death."

Dmitry Kovtun said he would not comment on the report until he got more information about its contents.[18]


Related Documents

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:A US-UK Plot to Discredit Putin and Destabilize the Russian Federationarticle27 March 2016William DunkerleyInformation about an interview between Swiss businessman Pascal Najadi and retired French security services officer Paul Barril, in which Barril claims that the murder of Alexander Litvinenko was commissioned by the US-UK intelligence nexus as part of "Operation Beluga" aimed at destabilising Russia and discrediting Vladimir Putin
Document:Drool Britanniaarticle22 January 2016Mark NesopCommentary on the Owen Inquiry Report into the death of Alexander Litvinenko
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  1. Litvinenko death: Russian spy 'was working for MI6' – BBC News, 13 December 2012
  2. Obituary: Alexander Litvinenko, by Tom Parfitt, The Guardian, 25 November 2006.
  3. Who Killed Litvinenko?, by Cahal Milmo, The Independent, 25 November 2006.
  4. a b c d e f g Why a spy was killed, by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy, The Guardian, 26 January 2008.
  5. Why a spy was killed, by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy, The Guardian, 26 January 2008.
  6. "Who Killed Litvinenko?", by Cahal Milmo, The Independent, 25 November 2006.
  7. The Specter That Haunts the Death of Litvinenko, Edward Jay Epstein, New York Sun, 18 March 2008.
  8. "Timeline: Litvinenko death case", BBC News, 27 July 2007.
  9. "The Specter That Haunts the Death of Litvinenko", by Edward Jay Epstein, The New York Sun, 19 March 2008.
  10. "Timeline: Litvinenko death case", BBC News, 27 July 2007.
  11. "The Specter That Haunts the Death of Litvinenko", by Edward Jay Epstein, The New York Sun, 19 March 2008.
  12. Mr Alexander Litvinenko- Health Protection Agency Statement, 24 November 2006.
  13. a b c d e f g "Update Statement on the Public Health Issues related to Polonium-210", 25 November 2006.
  14. "The Specter That Haunts the Death of Litvinenko", by Edward Jay Epstein, The New York Sun, 19 March 2008.
  15. "The Litninenko Inquiry report - pdf"
  16. "UK Report Claims Putin to Blame for Litvinenko Death" - Sputnik International, 21 January 2016
  17. Claims of Russia 'in Any Way' Involved in Litvinenko Death 'Unacceptable' - Sputnik International 21 January 2016
  18. "President Putin 'probably' approved Litvinenko murder"