Did Russia’s president Vladimir Putin approve the murder in London of Alexander Litvinenko? The renegade Russian FSB agent died an agonizing death after being poisoned in late 2006 with the deadly radioactive isotope, Polonium 210.
So charged an official British inquiry chaired by Sir Robert Owen after years of investigation. Owen also accused former FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev and two former FSB agents, Andrei Lugovoi and Dimitri Kovtun.
As the first western journalists to be invited to interview KGB’s then chiefs at their Lubyanka headquarters in Moscow, I’ve naturally been closely following the Litvinenko case since it began. Here are my views as a long-time intelligence specialist:
KGB, its predecessors, Cheka, OGPU, NKVD, MGB, and successor SVR(foreign intelligence), FSB (internal security) and military intelligence GRU, had a long tradition of liquidating defectors, turncoats and “traitors.” The notorious hit squad “SMERSH” was created to kill renegades and “enemies of the state.” Its most famed victim was exiled Soviet leader, Leon Trotsky.
A top secret department, “Kamera,” was created to produce a wide range of hard-to-identify poisons, many used to murder Ukrainian nationalist leaders. A leading Bulgarian defector, Georgi Markov, was murdered in London by means of a deadly ricin capsule shoved into his leg.
State-sponsored murders were not just confined to the Communist bloc. The US tried to kill Cuba’s Fidel Castro over one hundred times, using poisons, assassins even an exploding cigar. US Predators roam the skies murdering Washington’s enemies.
Britain’s agents tried to assassinate Libya’s Khadaffi in Benghazi with a car bomb. French agents also tried to kill Khadaffi – eventually succeeding in 2011. Israel has assassinated almost the entire Palestinian leadership over past decades.
But the Soviets/Russia were always grand masters of liquidation. The gruesome murder of Litvinenko is perfectly consistent with this tradition.
Litvinenko had defected to Britain and thrown his lot in with shady Russian exile Boris Berezovsky, who was intriguing to seize power in Moscow from Putin with the help of Britain’s MI6 intelligence service. During the early 1920’s, Britain intelligence had tried precisely the same thing, using fabled British agent Sidney Reilly.
Worse, from Moscow’s point of view, Litvinenko had published a damning book, “Blowing Up Russia,” that accused the FSB and its new star Vladimir Putin of blowing up apartment buildings in 1999 in three Russian cities. Three hundred and seven people died, 1700 were injured, and panic spread across Russia. The attacks were blamed on Chechen “terrorist” though a FSB team was caught planting explosives. The stage was set for a strongman to enter. That, of course, was Vladimir Putin. He ordered the invasion of breakaway Chechnya.
The entire apartment bombing business was a prelude to the 9/11 attacks on the US two years later that boosted far right neocons into power and led to the invasion of Iraq.
Litvinenko went on to openly accuse Putin of murdering the renowned Russia anti-war writer, Anna Politkovskaya. Shortly before her death, this courageous woman predicted to me that she would shortly be murdered by Russian gangsters sent by friends of the Kremlin.
Next, Litvinenko claimed that Putin had been a child molester, a claim that clearly sealed his fate. He wrote that Russia was being run by former KGB hard men and Russian gangsters.
The murder of Litvinenko was no surprise. But who did it? The British tribunal’s claim that Putin “may” have authorized the murder are not credible unless parts of the inquiry held in secret are revealed.
Soviet/Russian intelligence tradecraft always covered up its chain of command and “special operations.” I don’t see how Putin could be accused short of wire taps and defector testimony. Or unless MI6 has a mole in the Kremlin or FSB HQ – which is not impossible. But from knowledge of KGB, it is highly professional and always careful to cover its tracks.
It’s wrong to accused President Putin without real proof and should be seen as part of the anti-Putin propaganda war waged by the US and Britain.
But I would not be surprised if senior Russian intelligence officials conspired with mobsters to liquidate the irksome Litvinenko. The accusation of child molesting is the very worst charge one can imagine in child-crazy Russia. The two Russians accused of poisoning Litvinenko, Lugovoi and Kovtun, are central casting Russian thugs.