Alexander Litvinenko poisoning

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On November 1 2006, Alexander Litvinenko suddenly fell ill and was hospitalized. He died three weeks later, becoming the first known victim of deliberate, lethal polonium-210 radiation poisoning. The fact that Litvinenko's revelations about FSB misdeeds was followed by his poisoning — and his public accusations that the Russian government was behind his malady — resulted in worldwide media coverage.

British authorities are investigating his death and it was reported on December 1 that scientists at the UK Atomic Weapons Establishment had traced the source of the polonium to a nuclear power plant in Russia.<ref name="corpse"/> On December 3, reports stated that Britain has demanded the right to speak to at least five Russians implicated in Litvinenko's death, and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov asserted that Moscow was willing to answer "concrete questions." <ref>Template:Cite web</ref>


[edit] Illness and poisoning

On November 1 2006, Litvinenko suddenly fell ill. In interviews, he stated he met with two former KGB agents early on that day, one of whom was Andrei Lugovoi, a former bodyguard of Russian ex-prime minister Yegor Gaidar (also reportedly poisoned in November 2006). Later, he had lunch at Itsu, a sushi restaurant on Piccadilly in London, with an Italian acquaintance, Mario Scaramella, to whom he reportedly made the allegations regarding Romano Prodi.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Scaramella, attached to the Mitrokhin Commission investigating KGB penetration of Italian politics, claimed to have information on the death of Anna Politkovskaya, 48, a journalist who was killed at her Moscow apartment in October 2006. He passed Litvinenko papers supposedly concerning her fate. On November 20, it was reported that Scaramella had gone into hiding and was in fear for his life.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Oleg Gordievsky, a long-time acquaintance of Litvinenko and another former KGB colonel who had defected to the UK, told the BBC he believed Litvinenko was poisoned at the flat of an old Russian friend, with whom he had had tea before going to the sushi restaurant. Gaidar himself was struck by a sudden unexplained illness on November 24.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

Litvinenko's poisoning is now attributed to the radionuclide polonium-210 after the Health Protection Agency found significant amounts of this rare and toxic element in his body. The poisoning was widely covered in the British media beginning 18 November 2006, though it had been covered in other countries for several days before.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Thallium - initial hypothesis

Scotland Yard initially investigated claims that Litvinenko was poisoned with thallium. It was reported that early tests appeared to confirm the presence of the poison.<ref name=UK vendetta">Template:Cite web</ref><ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Among the distinctive effects of thallium poisoning are hair loss and damage to peripheral nerves,<ref name="50/50">Template:Cite web</ref> and a photograph of Litvinenko in hospital, released to the media on his behalf,<ref name="Ex-spy dies">Template:Cite web</ref> indeed showed his hair to have fallen out. Litvinenko attributed his initial survival to his cardiovascular fitness and swift medical treatment. It was later suggested a radioactive isotope of thallium might have been used to poison Litvinenko.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Dr. Amit Nathwani, one of Litvinenko's physicians said, "His symptoms are slightly odd for thallium poisoning, and the chemical levels of thallium we were able to detect are not the kind of levels you'd see in toxicity."<ref> Template:Cite web</ref> Litvinenko's condition deteriorated, and he was moved into intensive care on November 20. Hours before his death, three unidentified circular-shaped objects were found in his stomach via an X-ray scan.<ref>(Spanish)Template:Cite web</ref> It is thought these objects were almost certainly shadows caused by the presence of Prussian blue, the treatment he had been given for thallium poisoning.<ref name="50/50">Template:Cite web</ref><ref name="Condition Deteriorates">Template:Cite web</ref>

Subsequently it was reported that traces of thallium are commonly found with polonium: "A tiny amount of thallium, a common impurity in polonium and a poison in its own right, was also found (in Litvinenko's body fluids). Polonium is typically made by bombarding bismuth-209, a heavy metal similar to antimony, with neutrons to make bismuth-210, which rapidly decays into polonium-210. But bismuth can also decay into thallium-206 — which is why polonium often has traces of thallium as well."<ref name="Times">Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Polonium-210

Shortly after his death, the UK's Health Protection Agency HPA stated tests had established Litvinenko had significant amounts of the radioactive isotope polonium-210 in his body. This was most likely inhaled or ingested, and traces of it were found at several London locations: in his Muswell Hill home, at a hotel in Grosvenor Square, and at the sushi restaurant where he had met Scaramella on November 1, and where he regularly held meetings, including a October 16 meeting with two Russians. Traces were also found in a former Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky's offices and his residence in Mayfair.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

British and US government sources both said the use of 210Po as a poison has never been documented before,<ref> Template:Cite web</ref> and this was probably the first time a person has been tested for the presence of polonium-210 in his or her body. According to Maxim Shingarkin, an expert on radiation safety, the theory of Litvinenko's exposure to 210Po at the sushi bar or at the hotel's restaurant is not viable, given the nature of 210Po. If it is uncontained — mixed into food or a drink — 210Po will quickly transform into its aerosol form, effectively contaminating an enclosed space. Had this been the case, the other customers and the staff of the sushi bar and the restaurant would be severely affected as well. Since all the locations where the presence of 210Po was detected display only trace amounts, originating from Litvinenko himself, his initial exposure to the substance may have occurred elsewhere.<ref>(Russian) Template:Cite web </ref>

The HPA is investigating<ref name="HPA Press Release"> Template:Cite web</ref> the risk to people who had contact with Litvinenko and confirmed that, as a precautionary measure, some people had been referred to a specialist clinic for possible radiological exposure assessment.<ref name="BBC News"> Template:Cite web</ref> The HPA is also seeking to analyze impurities in the polonium that may act as a "fingerprint" to identify its source.<ref name="Guardian Unlimited">Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Sources of polonium

See also: Polonium toxicity

The use of polonium in the poisoning has been seen as proof of involvement of a state actor<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>, as more than microscopic amounts of polonium can only be produced in nuclear reactors.<ref>Polonium is found in uranium ores at about 100 micrograms per metric ton (1:1010). Its natural abundance is approximately 0.2% that of radium. It can also be produced by bombarding bismuth (209Bi) with neutrons. Polonium can be made in milligram amounts using this procedure, which uses high neutron fluxes found in nuclear reactors.</ref> Most polonium produced in Russia is however distributed by western commercial distributors.<ref name="corpse"/>

The effect on Litvinenko appears consistent with a dose of approximately 2 GBq (50 mCi) of 210Po, more than 100 times a lethal dose of around 200 <math>\mu</math>Ci.<ref name="Times"/>

[edit] Po-210 production

Most of the world polonium-210 (210Po) is produced in Russia in Chernobyl type RBMK reactors. About 100 grams (450,000 Ci) are produced by Russia annually. According to a claim by the head of Russia's state atomic energy agency RosAtom, Sergei Kiriyenko, all of it goes to U.S. companies through a single authorized supplier. <ref name="corpse">Template:Cite web</ref>

Polonium 210 is a synthetic element that has a half-life of only 138 days as it gradually transforms into lead, this means that this substance loses approximately half of its concentration after four months and drops to approximately one eighth of it's original potency a year after it was first manufactured. It is thus virtually impossible that the polonium came from a pre-1991 Soviet-era source, and unlikely that it has been stored for several years.

[edit] Commercial products

No credible nuclear authority has asserted that a commercial product is a likely source for the poisoning of Litvinenko. However, potentially lethal amounts of polonium are present in anti-static brushes sold to photographers.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Many of the devices are available by mail order. General Electric markets a static eliminator module with 500 microcuries (20 MBq), roughly 2.5 times the lethal dose of Po-210 if 100%-ingested, for US $71.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> If these were used to collect the amount of polonium likely used in the poisoning -- and one could devise a method of separating the polonium from its protective casing -- it would take 100 modules for US $7100.

It is said the FSB had access to radioactive material in order to trace Russian mafia money.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Polonium is apparently considered by some to be an ideal element to use for tracing money due to its minimal health effects outside the body, and for its relatively short half-life. However, clearly, ingested or absorbed polonium is potentially lethal, regardless of the delivery mechanism.

Reports now state that scientists of the UK's Atomic Weapons Establishment have confirmed the polonium was manufactured and the source is likely to originate from a Russian nuclear reactor.<ref name ="corpse"/><ref name="Times"/><ref name="Poisoned">Template:Cite web</ref> This of course does not exclude the possibily that the polonium that killed Litvinenko was imported by a licensed commercial distributor, but no one -- including the Russian government -- has proposed that this is likely, particularly in regard to the radiation detected on the British Airways Moscow-London passenger jets.

[edit] Polonium in passenger airplanes

On November 29 2006, British Airways announced that three of its passenger jets had been linked to the investigation of Litvinenko's death and two were found by British authorities to contain trace amounts of a radioactive substance.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref><ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Flights cited as being of particular interest included flights BA875 and BA873 from Moscow to Heathrow on October 25 and October 31, as well as flights BA872 and BA874 from Heathrow to Moscow on October 28 and November 3.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> A further two aircraft in Russia are now being investigated.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

British Airways published the 221 flights affected, involving around 33,000 passengers, and advised those potentially affected to contact the UK Department for Health helpline. Andrei Lugovoi has said he flew from London to Moscow on a November 3 flight. He stated he arrived in London on October 31 to attend the football match between Arsenal and CSKA Moscow on November 1.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Death and last statement

On November 22, Litvinenko's medical staff at University College Hospital reported he had suffered a "major setback" due to either heart failure or an overnight heart attack; he died the following day. Scotland Yard reported that "[i]nquiries continue into the circumstances surrounding how Mr Litvinenko, 43 years, of North London, became unwell."<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

Litvinenko's postmortem took place on December 1 and has been completed. It has been stated that three physicians attended, including one chosen by the family. The results will take several days to be announced.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

It has now been revealed that there is a possibility Litvinenko may have considered wanting to become or did try to become a Muslim according to his burial wishes. It is said that the Koran was read to him prior to his death.<ref name="Poisoned"/> However, Walter Litvinenko could not confirm this, but he said he knew his son "respected Islam because he lived among Muslims for a long time."<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Investigations

Greater London's Metropolitan Police Service Terrorism Unit has been investigating the poisoning and death. The head of the Counter-Terrorism Unit, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, stated the police "will trace possible witnesses, examine Mr. Litvinenko's movements at relevant times, including when he first became ill and identify people he may have met. There will also be an extensive examination of CCTV footage."<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> The United Kingdom Government COBRA committee met to discuss the investigation.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Richard Kolko from the United States FBI stated "when requested by other nations, we provide assistance" - referring to the FBI now joining the investigation for their expertise on radioactive weapons.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref><ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Russian Government Involvement Theory

Litvinenko's death has led to the development of numerous conspiracy theories, notably the theory that he was killed by a Russian secret service.<ref name="Russia law"/> Viktor Ilyukhin, a deputy chairman of the Russian parliament’s security committee for the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, said that he "can’t exclude that possibility". He said: "That former KGB officer had been irritating the Russian authorities for a long time and possibly knew some state secrets. So when our special services got the chance to operate not only inside but outside the country, they decided to get rid of him."<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> He apparently referred to a recent Russian counter-terrorism law that gives the President the right to order such actions.<ref>(Russian)Template:Cite web</ref><ref name="Russia law">Template:Cite web</ref>

Moreover, it has been reported in the Chechen State Press that an investigator of the Russian apartment bombings, Mikhail Trepashkin wrote in a letter from prison that an FSB team had organised in 2002 to kill Litvinenko. He also reported FSB plans to kill relatives of Litvinenko in Moscow in 2002, although these have not been carried out. <ref name="cp1-12">(Russian)Template:Cite web</ref><ref name=" Дело Литвиненко">(Russian)Template:Cite web</ref>

Leonid Nevzlin, a former Yukos oil company shareholder and Russian exile currently living in Israel, told the Associated Press last week that Litvinenko had given him a document related to a dossier on criminal charges made by Russian prosecutors against people connected to Yukos. Nevzlin, who is charged by Russian prosecutors with having organized killings, fraud and tax evasion, claimed Litvinenko's inquiries may have provided a motive for his poisoning.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Russian Government response

The press in Russia has offered a number of alternatives to Litvinenko's demise.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> As one example, Russian state television has taken the view that if Litvinenko knew any important secrets, he would already have made them public during his six-year-long stay in the United Kingdom. According to this view, he was not an important person and not worth a loud political scandal. Also a suspicious simultaneousness between the deaths of the so-called oppositionals and big international summits with Russian participation was noted, along with the question who could be interested in worsening Russia's and Putin's image in front of them.<ref>(Russian)Template:Cite web</ref>

Vladimir Putin's aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky commented:

The excessive number of calculated coincidences between the deaths of people, who defined themselves as the opposition to the Russian authorities, and major international events involving Vladimir Putin is a source of concern. I am far from believing in the conspiracy theory, but, in this case, I think that we are witnessing a well-rehearsed plan of the consistent discrediting of the Russian Federation and its chief. In such cases, the famed "qui bono" [sic] question has to be asked.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, dismissed the idea of Putin's involvement as "pure nonsense".<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> The involvement of Moscow was denied by SVR representative Sergei Ivanov who said:

From the logical viewpoint and from the 'Who benefits?' viewpoint, I can't see any reasons for the speculation actively being disseminated by the western press alleging this might be the long arms of the KGB or the FSB, There should definitely be a careful and objective investigation. I am sure that it will be conducted and Russia is willing to render any assistance.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

The main explanation put forward by the Russian Government appears to be that the deaths of Litvinenko and Politkovskaya were intended to embarass President Putin. Federation Council of Russia Speaker Sergey Mironov said that "reports about Anna Politkovskaya and Litvinenko's deaths were released when Putin was meeting with EU leaders in Finland. I don't think the coincidence was accidental".<ref name="Mironov">Template:Cite web</ref> However, Mironov went on to say, "It would be premature to make any conclusions about Litvinenko's death. We must wait until the investigation produces specific results."<ref name="Mironov"/>

British novelist Rupert Allason said he would be most surprised if the FSB had tried to kill Mr Litvinenko because it would fly in the face of 65 years of Soviet or Russian practice, as "[n]either the FSB nor the KGB has ever killed a defector on foreign soil and their predecessors, even under Stalin, did so only once in the case of Walter Krivitsky in Washington in 1941."<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Embarrassing deaths theory

Federation Council of Russia Speaker Sergey Mironov said that "reports about Politkovskaya and Litvinenko's deaths were released when Putin was meeting with EU leaders in Finland. I don't think the coincidence was accidental".<ref name="Mironov">Template:Cite web</ref> However, Mironov went on to say, "It would be premature to make any conclusions about Litvinenko's death. We must wait until the investigation produces specific results."<ref name="Mironov"/>

[edit] Berezovsky theory

It has been claimed that the death of Litvinenko was connected to Boris Berezovsky.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref><ref>(Russian)Template:Cite web</ref> Former FSB chief Nikolay Kovalev, for whom Litvinenko worked, said that the incident "looks like [the] hand of Berezovsky. I am sure that no kind of intelligence services participated."<ref>(Russian)Template:Cite web</ref>

Another exiled Russian agent, Evgeni Limarev, has confirmed that there may have been a falling out between Berezovsky and Litvinenko and also that the British (MI6) and American secret agents had told Litvinenko that his life was in danger because of his ties with Berezovsky.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

On the other hand, the FSB has previously accused Berezovsky of various murders, including that of Sergei Yushenkov, who worked with Berezovsky in founding the political party, Liberal Russia, and was assassinated shortly after the party was registered (another co-founder of this party Vladimir Golovlev was murdered a few months earlier). Four people were put on trial and convicted of the murder, among them Mikhail Kodanev, a co-chairman of Liberal Russia. Yuskenkov's death and the conviction and jailing of the co-chairman of Liberal Russia for his murder is widely perceived to have been part of a policy of eliminating the political threat posed by Berezovsky to the establishment. Therefore the accusations from the FSB of Berezovsky's involvement warrant careful consideration.

[edit] Yukos theory

It has been suggested that Litvinenko was killed because of his research into the Russian Government's campaign against the management of the Russian oil company Yukos and its renationalisation. According to The Times, the police investigation is looking at Litvinenko's journey to Israel prior to his illness and death, where it is alleged that he gave information regarding Yukos to Leonid Nevzlin, the former deputy head of Yukos, who fled to Tel Aviv, including material relating to the deaths of former Yukos workers and information relating to the imprisonment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> It is believed that these documents have been handed over to the British investigators.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref><ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

Yuri Shvets a former KGB agent has contacted police in London and detectives have flown out to Washington to interview him. He told the Observer that Litvinenko claimed before his death that he had prepared a dossier on the Russian Government's relationship with Yukos.<ref name="blackmail plot">Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Ex-FSB members theory - Opponents of Putin in 2004 election

According to the Guardian: "British officials say the perpetrators were probably former Russian security agents, or members of a criminal gang linked to them. They also say that only a "state" institution would have access to polonium-210. They insist there is no evidence of the involvement of the Russian government."<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

"Scaramella showed Litvinenko a "hit-list" of people allegedly targeted for assassination by the Russian intelligence services and a shadowy group of KGB veterans called Dignity and Honour, which is run by a Colonel Velentin Velichko."<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

The Russian intelligence services are highly bureaucratic and legalistic. "There isn't a great deal of room for personal initiative, everything has to be officially authorised and signed off. And this murder would have been a highly complex operation involving many people not one or two acting in isolation."<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Opponents in 2008 election theory

Some believe that the public assassination of Litvinenko shows the growing fight between Kremlin clans is "spinning out of control" ahead of the 2008 Russian presidential elections, in which Putin said he would not run for a third term.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> The negative fallout of such a public assassination would be beneficial to some in eroding the support and political standing of President Putin's government in Russia and abroad.[citation needed]

[edit] Suicide theory

Some observers have suggested the death was suicide; the finding of radioactive material at several locations, including Litvinenko's house has led to some suggesting that Litvinenko killed himself to discredit the Russian government.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Blackmail plot theory

According to The Observer, a Russian student, Julia Svetlichnaja, alleged that Litvinenko openly told her that he was intending to blackmail senior Russian officials and businessmen. She also claimed that she had become increasingly concerned about his numerous emails alleging a great variety of plots, particularly noting his claim that Putin was a paedophile.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> The Observer claimed his "access to such documents could have made him an enemy of both big business interests and the Kremlin".<ref name="blackmail plot"/>

[edit] Further people contaminated or related to the case

[edit] Yegor Gaidar

The sudden illness of Yegor Gaidar in Ireland on November 24, the day of Litvinenko's death, has been linked to his visit to the restaurant where polonium was present and is being investigated as part of the overall investigation in the UK and Ireland.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> However, other observers noted he was probably poisoned after drinking a strange-tasting cup of tea. Gaidar was taken to hospital; doctors said his condition is not life-threatening and that he will recover.<ref>(Russian)Template:Cite web</ref><ref>(Russian)Template:Cite web</ref> This incident was similar to the poisoning of Anna Politkovskaya on a flight to Beslan.

[edit] Mario Scaramella

The United Kingdom's Health Protection Agency (HPA) announced that significant quantities of polonium-210 had been found in Mario Scaramella although his health was found to be normal. He has been admitted to hospital for tests and monitoring.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Doctors say that Scaramella was exposed to a much lower level of polonium-210 than Litvinenko had been exposed to, and that preliminary tests found "no evidence of radiation toxicity".<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

Police are likely to be investigating Mario Scaramella's allegation that Litvinenko was involved in smuggling radioactive material to Zurich in 2000.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Litvinenko's widow

UK reports state Litvinenko's widow tested positive for polonium, though she is not seriously ill. The Ashdown Park hotel in Sussex has been evacuated as a precaution, possibly to do with Mario Scaramella's previous visit there.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Akhmed Zakayev

The forensic investigation also includes the silver Mercedes by Litvinenko's home believed to be owned by Akhmed Zakayev, the foreign minister of the rebel government in exile from Chechnya.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref><ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Reports now state that traces of radioactive material were found in the vehicle.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Chronology of events

  • 7 June 1994: A remote-controlled bomb detonated aiming at chauffeured Mercedes 600 with oligarch Boris Berezovsky and his bodyguard in the rear seat. Driver died but Berezovsky left the car unscathed. Litvinenko, then with the organized-crime unit of the FSB, was an investigating officer of the assassination attempt. The case was never solved, but it was at this point that Litvinenko befriended Berezovsky.
  • 17 November 1998: At a time that Vladimir Putin was the head of the FSB, five officers including Lieutenant-Colonel Litvinenko accuse the Director of the Directorate for the Analysis of Criminal Organizations Major-General Eugeny Hoholkhov and his deputy, 1st Rank Captain Alexander Kamishnikov, of ordering them to assassinate Boris Berezovsky in November 1997.
  • 1999: Russian apartment bombings. Duma, on a pro-Kremlin party block vote, voted to seal all materials related to Ryazan incident for the next 75 years and forbade an investigation of what really happened.
  • 1999 to Present: Second Chechen War.
  • 31 December 1999: Vladimir Putin succeeds Boris Yeltsin after he resigned due to bad health.
  • 26 March 2000: Presidential elections, Putin elected.
  • 14 March 2004: Putin re-elected, opponent was Ivan Rybkin.
  • 7 October 2006: The Russian journalist and Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya is shot in Moscow.
  • 19 October 2006: Litvinenko accuses President Putin of the Politkovskaya murder.
  • 31 October 2006: Dimitri Kovtun comes to London from Hamburg, Germany.
  • 1 November 2006: Litvinenko meets with the former KGB agents Andrei Lugovoi, Dimitri Kovtun and Vyacheslav Sokolenko in the Millenium Hotel in London. Later, at the Itsu sushi restaurant on Picadilly, he meets the Italian security expert Mario Scaramella, who hands alleged evidence to him concerning the murder of Politkovskaya. On the same day Litvinenko becomes ill.
  • 3 November 2006: Litvinenko is brought into Barnet General Hospital.
  • 11 November 2006: Litvinenko tells the BBC he was poisoned and is in very bad condition.
  • 17 November 2006: Litvinenko is moved to University College Hospital and placed under armed guard.
  • 19 November 2006: Reports emerge that Litvinenko has been poisoned with thallium, a chemical element used in the past as a rat poison.
  • 20 November 2006: Litvinenko is moved to the Intensive Care Unit. The police take statements from people with close relation to Litvinenko. A Kremlin speaker denies the Russian government is involved in the poisoning.
  • 22 November 2006: The hospital announces that Litvinenko's condition has worsened substantially.
  • 23 November 2006: Litvinenko dies at 9:21 P.M.
  • 24 November 2006: Litvinenko's dictated deathbed statement is published. He accuses President Vladimir Putin of being responsible for his death. The Kremlin rejects the accusation. The HPA announces that significant amounts of Polonium-210 have been found in Litvinenko's body. Traces of the same substance are also found at Litvinenko's house in North London, at Itsu and at the Millenium Hotel.
  • 24 November 2006: The British police state they are investigating the death as a possible poisoning.
  • 28 November 2006: Scotland Yard announces that traces of Polonium-210 have been found in seven different places in London. Among them, an office of the Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky, an avowed opponent of Putin.
  • 29 November 2006: The HPA announces screening of the nurses and physicians who treated Litvinenko. The authorities find traces of a radioactive substance on board British Airways planes.
  • 30 November 2006: Polonium-210 traces are found on a number of other planes, most of them going to Moscow.
  • 1 December 2006: An autopsy is performed on the body of Litvinenko. Scaramella tests positive for Polonium-210 and is admitted into a hospital. Litvinenko's widow also tests positive for Polonium-210, but was not sent to the hospital for treatment.
  • 2 December 2006: Scotland Yard's counter-terrorist unit have questioned Yuri Shvets, a former KGB spy who emigrated to the United States in 1993. He was questioned as a witness in Washington in the presence of FBI officers. Shvets claimed that he has a "lead that can explain what happened".

[edit] Comparisons to other deaths

Comparisons have been made to the alleged 2004 poisoning of Viktor Yushchenko, the alleged 2003 poisoning of Yuri Shchekochikhin and the fatal 1978 poisoning of the journalist Georgi Markov by the Bulgarian Committee for State Security. The incident with Litvinenko has also attracted comparisons to the poisoning by radioactive thallium of KGB defector Nikolay Khokhlov and journalist Yuri Shchekochikhin of Novaya Gazeta (the Novaya Gazeta interview with the former, coincidentally, prepared by Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was later found shot to death in her apartment building).<ref>(Russian)Template:Cite web</ref> Like Litvinenko, Shchekochikhin had investigated the Russian apartment bombings (he was a member of the Kovalev Commission that hired Litvinenko's friend Mikhail Trepashkin as a legal counsel).

Former KGB officer Oleg Gordievsky believes the murders of Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, Yuri Shchekochikhin, and Anna Politkovskaya and the incident with Aleksander Litvinenko show that FSB has returned to the practice of political assassinations,<ref>(Russian)Template:Cite web</ref> which were conducted in the past by Thirteenth KGB Department.<ref name="Andrew"> *Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West, Gardners Books (2000), ISBN 0-14-028487-7 </ref> A comparison was also made with Roman Tsepov who was responsible for personal protection of Anatoly Sobchak and Vladimir Putin, and who died in Russia in 2004 from poisoning by an unknown radioactive substance.<ref>(Russian)Template:Cite web</ref> Officers of FSB "special forces" liked to use Litvinenko photos for the target practice in shooting galleries, according to Russian journalist Yulia Latynina.<ref>(Russian)Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] See also

[edit] References


[edit] External links

Alexander Litvinenko poisoning

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